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Kaizen, Lean Six Sigma and Hospital Improvement – Pt 1


By University Alliance
Kaizen, Lean Six Sigma and Hospital Improvement – Part 1

In this climate of economic uncertainty and increasing demands on hospitals, Lean Six Sigma in healthcare is one way to help improve productivity and reduce costs. Lean Six Sigma business management strategies, and those traditionally applied to manufacturing, are now being embraced by more U.S. hospitals.

A study by The American Society for Quality reported that 53% of hospitals reported some level of Lean deployment, and 43% reported some level of Six Sigma deployment. As the economy continues toward recovery, those numbers are expected to increase. Now is a good time to look into Six Sigma training, as the techniques can help improve patient care as well as the bottom line.

Six Sigma Techniques That Bring Results

  • Kaizen – A Japanese word meaning improvement, Kaizen refers to a method of continuous incremental improvements, based on the elements of teamwork, personal discipline, improved morale, quality circles and suggestions for improvement. Kaizen aims to improve standards and eliminate inefficiency and waste, and involves everyone in an organization – from the CEO down.
  • Lean – Aims to improve customer value with less work and reduced waste. Lean is a way of acting and thinking, with the ultimate goal of delivering the highest possible value to customers through perfect processes that produce zero waste. Lean can be applied to business processes in almost any industry.
  • Six Sigma – An improvement methodology based in a disciplined, data-driven approach. Six Sigma specialists use data to improve performance and reduce defects, waste and service failure in areas such as production, management, design, service and customer satisfaction.

How Hospitals Use Kaizen and Lean Six Sigma to Improve Healthcare

Tatem Brown Family Practice is a typical physician office, where a busy, non-standardized back office often meant lost patient files and too much time wasted looking for them.

A Kaizen event led the way to dramatic improvement in processes, along with easier workflow and improved employee satisfaction.

The Kaizen Event

In a three-and-a-half day event, continuous improvement activities were used to create and implement changes. First, data was gathered on patient encounters, back office staff activities, process steps, distances traveled and other areas needing improvement. One critical need was identified: data revealed that staff spent seven hours on a typical workday searching for patient charts in 39 locations.

The Kaizen team of staff, Six Sigma Black Belts and Lean leaders brainstormed ideas, completed a 5S (sort, set in order, shine, standardize, sustain) activity and created a process for identifying and tracking charts without generating more work.

Colored guides enabled chart tracking and decreased the time needed to find files. This single improvement decreased average time spent looking for a chart from six minutes to two. Another idea generated through the Kaizen event was relocating the nurses’ triage station closer to the file room to reduce travel time.

The Tatem Brown staff committed to Kaizen by continuing to solicit feedback, along with a plan to sustain the successful changes made to their processes.

Continue to Part 2

Category: Six Sigma