Lean Six Sigma Influence in Healthcare


RAXE Hospital in Bangalore is having silver jubilee celebrations to mark the successful completion of 25 years. Apart from the routine celebrations, the management committee is planning to organize a guest session to explain the growing relevance of Lean Six Sigma principles in healthcare. Dr. Mohan Lal is a senior medical officer and in charge of the program. He along with the operations head is looking after the arrangements. Dr. Mohan has called green and black belt industry experts to speak on the occasion. Only a week is left for the preparation. The topic emerged a major crowd puller as many participants enrolled for the event. Around 300 participants from all over India showed their interest.

On the D-day, participants poured in on time. The auditorium is arranged with gusto. Dr. Mohan welcomes dignitaries and the participants alike. Dr. Sam, a Six Sigma expert, who has over 25 years of experience in Healthcare Operations is the guest of honour. Rest other experts from the field graced the occasion. Dr. Mohan Lal welcomes Dr. Sam to speak after the inauguration speech. Dr. Sam comes to the mike and starts to speak on the much-awaited topic-

“In today’s competitive business world, there is an ever-increasing need for organizations and professionals to showcase agile behaviour precede desired business expectations and eliminate repeatable errors.

If ever there were an industry where we want zero defects, its healthcare. Patients, medical professionals, and healthcare administrators all want mistakes eliminated while quality and efficiency improved. Although most industries have undergone a major data-supported, systematic, quality-improvement process, healthcare still has its roadblocks. Medical and technological advances continue to outpace process. Demand and expectations for medical care are increasing. Inefficiency also leads to overcrowded emergency rooms, patient complaints, and lost revenues.

Well, Six Sigma is a form of statistical quality control, a type of management discipline that started in the manufacturing industry. This particular version started when some engineers at Motorola decided to measure defects per millions of devices and used the term “six sigma” to indicate a low defect rate six standard deviations from typical results. Six Sigma is a rigorous and exacting approach to quality where defects are limited to just 3.4 per million opportunities. Organizations take aim at this lofty target by carefully applying Six Sigma methodology to every aspect of a particular product or process. Six Sigma is defined as a disciplined business methodology to increase customer satisfaction and profitability by streamlining operations, improving quality and eliminating defects in every organization-wide process. Although Six Sigma has its roots in manufacturing, it works just as effectively in a service industry such as healthcare. Healthcare organizations face unique challenges and it’s no secret that they have a harder time applying quality improvement methods. Six Sigma’s comprehensive approach can be successful in healthcare organizations with quick results.

In healthcare, the central idea of the Six Sigma methodology is that defects are those things that lead to patient dissatisfaction. A defect could mean anything from long waits for appointments, confusing instructions, or ineffective or injurious procedures and treatments. In a healthcare organization, the critical factors in quality and efficiency are flow of information and interaction between people. Transforming the process of this flow yields quality results. Six Sigma achieves documented bottom-line strategic business results by initiating an organization-wide culture shift.

Lean Six Sigma is a well-structured data-driven methodology that enables organisations achieves effective and accurate outcomes repeatedly over a period of time. Lean is a systematic approach to reduce or eliminate activities that don’t add value to the process. It emphasizes removing wasteful steps in a process and taking the only value added steps. It helps in reducing process cycle time, improving product or service delivery time, reducing the chance of defect generation, reducing the inventory levels and optimizing resources for key improvements among others. It is a never-ending approach to waste removal, thus promotes a continuous chain of improvements. Lean Six Sigma uses Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control (DMAIC) – a five-step approach to process improvement. Focus on improving the patient experience by making sure your processes consistently deliver the desired results.



Few examples of wastes/ defects in the hospitals are – waste is the time spent looking for an item missing from a surgical case cart, letting supplies expire and then disposing of; including out-of-date medications. Some wastes are highly environment polluting like waste containing substances with genotoxic properties (i.e. highly hazardous substances that are, mutagenic, teratogenic or carcinogenic), such as cytotoxic drugs used in cancer treatment and their metabolites.”

Taking a pause, Dr. Sam speaks again, “What does lean have to do with operating a hospital? Well, it must be it just what puts hospitals back in the driver’s seat of their bottom lines. And to make this process work in patient care – you need the buy-in of the physicians, nurses and other staff. Also, to drip it down to the basic level, an integrative mindset is required. Recognizing what’s wrong with a process is the first step towards improving it. Summing it up, pinning down the process/service area of improvement. The slide will show it visually.

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Source- https://catalyst.nejm.org/what-is-lean-healthcare/

The question remains- How to improve the process – through zero defects or to minimize wastes?
The answer lies somewhere between adding the two and making it Lean Six Sigma process – looking at ways to increase flow/ reduce wastes while focusing on achieving consistent results. Six Sigma and lean principles allow a healthcare organization like hospitals to break through the status quo and achieve real process improvement.”
Dr. Sam ended his speech on a positive note. There was loud applause from the participants.


Article – Why Six Sigma in Healthcare is a Good Match 6Sigma.us

How does Six Sigma work – International Six Sigma Institute

Lean Six Sigma in Healthcare

Six Sigma DMAIC Process – A Real World Example – International Six Sigma Institute

(Some part of the blog is a work of fiction. The content taken from sources is mentioned. Any resemblance to name, work, company, description is purely coincidental.)

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