We tend to associate Six Sigma, Lean, TQM, and other quality improvement methods with industries like manufacturing. But using statistics and data analysis to solve problems is a process that's flexible enough to suit any business, including services such as banking, food service and, increasingly, health care.
There are many reasons to be happy that Lean Six Sigma is being adopted by more and more health care practitioners, including hospitals, clinics, and individual physicians, not to mention pharmaceutical and medical device makers.
Lean Six Sigma in Health Care
If any profession should strive for the virtual perfection sought in Six Sigma, it's health care. And given concerns about rising health care costs, the application of Lean Six Sigma principles to make health care more efficient and reduce waste makes good financial sense.
Akron Children's Hospital, the largest pediatric health care provider in northeast Ohio, is a great example of the positive impacts an organization-wide quality improvement culture can have on a health care operation. They've been using statistical analysis to improve the care they deliver since before 2008, and they've achieved stellar results.
Where Can Six Sigma Improve Health Care?
How has data made a difference to the patients and families who rely on Akron Children's Hospital? Here are few improvements resulting from the hospital's Lean Six Sigma program:
- Reducing surgical patient wait time
- Reducing appointment cancellations and no-shows
- Reducing the rate of insurance eligibility denials
- Seeing patients more quickly
- Improving accuracy
- Speeding up patient care
- Reducing overtime
- Avoiding unnecessary expenses
Of course, health care professionals want to concentrate on providing great care. They don't want to spend time on figuring out what to do with their data.
Analyzing Health Care Quality Data
So the quality improvement teams at Akron Children's Hospital, like those in other health care organizations that use Lean Six Sigma methods, turn to statistical software to do the analysis.
That lets the teams focus on their results of the analysis rather than the calculations behind it.
More about Lean Six Sigma at Akron Children's Hospital
A few years ago I had the privilege of talking with some members of the quality team at Akron Children's Hospital and learned how they used Minitab Statistical Software to help them analyze their data and understand the results. It's great to see how far they've taken their quality program since then, and that they're continuing to reap the rewards of data analysis today.