How Lean Six Sigma Principles Can Improve Hospital Performance

Lean and Six Sigma are systems that were originally developed to serve the manufacturing industry. While large-scale manufacturers have seen the benefits of Lean Six Sigma for decades, the discipline also has a home in many other industries, including healthcare. Modern hospitals are large machines, with thousands of complex processes servicing hundreds of employees and cities full of patients. Therefore, it is little wonder that Lean Six Sigma can offer major process improvements to the industry. Defining goals, identifying areas for improvement and implementing positive changes can have a significant impact on patients and a few major benefits to hospitals.

Reduced Wait Times

Australia’s public health system is a fantastic resource for people all over the country. But, like many public health systems, it often suffers from long wait times for non-critical procedures. Measuring how long patients spend waiting is a key metric for many hospitals. Wait times have a direct effect on the standard of patient care, with long waits often causing patients who need care to leave prematurely or seek help elsewhere.

While Lean and Six Sigma have their roots in the manufacturing industry, the methodologies can be broadly applied to hospitals. The DMAIC principles taught as part of Lean Six Sigma training are indispensable for defining goals and identifying places where hospitals are experiencing delays. Having tools to systematically assess the way departments are functioning is key to developing process improvement solutions that reduce wait times.

Improved Quality of Patient Care

Healthcare is an industry dedicated to helping people, and many hospitals already measure the quality of care they are providing to patients. Ensuring patients have positive experiences, quick diagnoses and effective treatment are key factors in improving community health. According to the World Health Organisation, high-quality patient care is:

  • Timely. Reducing wait times for consultations and procedures.
  • Equitable. High-quality healthcare for all.
  • Integrated. Providing healthcare that makes use of a full range of health services.
  • Efficient. Maximising the care provided with the available resources.

Lean Six Sigma promotes significant improvements that can assist hospitals to achieve these four goals. Additionally, Lean Six Sigma will ultimately reduce operational costs and inventories, translating into further savings and efficiencies for the hospital.

Reduce Medication Errors and Liability Issues

Across Australia, there is an estimated 230,000 medication errors each year. The problem is no less prevalent in hospitals where medication is routinely dispensed and administered to hundreds or thousands of patients at a time. While the pharmacy industry has developed strict controls of its own, medication errors are still a reality. While some mistakes are minor, in many cases they risk doing serious injury to patients through overdosing, harmful drug interactions and potentially deadly side effects. This is not only of concern to patients, it can lead to major liability claims and expenses for a hospital. Employing Lean Six Sigma in a hospital’s diagnosis and pharmacy processes can identify the sources of medication errors and implement further controls to reduce the issue and its associated expenses.

Increased Productivity in Laboratories

Both public and private hospitals rely on the support of their various laboratory departments. In most cases, laboratories run around the clock, with staff always being on-hand to run tests and assist with important diagnoses. Pathologists perform a wide range of tests, including general chemistry, haematology, microbiology, immunology, surgical pathology, cytology and more. These tests range from simple, machine-conducted studies to complex assessments by highly trained clinicians. Introducing a thorough understanding of Lean Six Sigma into laboratory environments can minimise wasted time, reduce damaged samples and improve the turnaround on critical testing. By identifying bottlenecks, developing process improvements and building robust quality control systems, Lean Six Sigma can improve productivity and the reliability of hospital laboratory results.

Contact Thornley Group for Lean Six Sigma Training Tailored to Your Hospital

With reduced inventory, improved processes and fewer errors, patients and hospitals can both reap the benefits of Lean Six Sigma training. Thornley Group provides Lean Six Sigma courses for all levels of healthcare professionals, from nurses and laboratory technicians through to boards and governing bodies. Our programs are designed to assist organisations of all shapes and sizes. We can also tailor the content to suit your particular hospital to give your staff an even greater understanding of their role in process improvement. Speak to us today about our Lean Six Sigma training programs and consultation services.

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