Six Sigma can be defined as a measure of quality that strives for near perfection. It is a disciplined, data-driven approach and methodology for eliminating defects or errors in any process. In healthcare, Six Sigma is a set of tools and strategies for process improvement in an organization. It seeks to improve the quality of processes within an organization by identifying and removing the causes of errors. It minimizes variability in processes as well as in management.
Six Sigma strategies were initially applied to the healthcare industry in March 1998. The Commonwealth Health Corporation (CHC) was the first healthcare organization to successfully implement the efficient strategies of Six Sigma.
Six sigma uses a set of quality management methods, including statistical methods, and creates a special infrastructure of people within the organization who are experts in these complex methods. Each Six Sigma project carried out within an organization follows a defined sequence of steps and has quantified financial targets.
Thus, lean Six Sigma application in healthcare requires an in-depth understanding of how the tools and methodologies translate to the people-intensive processes of patient care. Once applied, the possibilities of improvement & success are endless.
Six Sigma is the perfect quality assurance program for the healthcare industry, as it concerns prioritizing, itemizing and efficiently completing processes. Many healthcare institutions are using Six Sigma as a way to effectively improve their services in order to provide better healthcare to the people. Successfully organizing and incorporating this management theory takes into account its methodology and theories. Also, it is highly dependent on a good foundation of training and certification.
Healthcare institutions will have numerous functions and priorities to deal with. When it comes to implementing the Six Sigma quality improvement strategy within this industry, there are guidelines, which have to be followed in order to weigh the importance of each task and assign them accordingly.
Quality matters a lot in healthcare and an error even if minor in nature might lead to hazardous results. Quality issues within this industry can sprout from just about anywhere. The most common are faulty equipment, lack of management or routine within a particular department, or there can even be problems throughout the organization as a whole. Sig Sigma, when used and implemented correctly, can successfully alleviate procedural issues as it relates to medical care and operational issues like work-flow, registration, and billing.
Let’s take a look at how Six Sigma functions. The first and a very important step to repair any issue is prioritizing a customer or stakeholders. In healthcare industry, the stakeholders are patients, the nursing staff, doctors, investors, administrative staff, or the department manager. It all depends on the quality issue at hand and who will directly benefit from the changes that will be made. Of course the patients are the final customer when it comes to the healthcare industry, but since this process is a business theory, it needs to sometimes be viewed in a business light. In some cases, some problems are not prime candidates for Six Sigma. This is because it works best with complex issues with several variables involved that are repeated over and over.
There are several other quality management programs that may help to solve simple operational issues directed more towards facilitation, direction and building a consensus amongst all the people involved. Since most hospital procedures are repeated, it is a very viable option for most hospital processes, which is why it is so beneficial when it comes to the healthcare industry.