Get Your Checkup

Abstract:Lean and Six Sigma quality improvement initiatives have been successfully used for the past 20 years by a wide array of industries, manufacturing in particular. While healthcare institutions have also sought to apply the tools of lean and Six Sigma, there has been little substantive proof of success. In 2008, ASQ attempted to assess the correlation of these improvement initiatives with enhanced performance. Despite a relatively small number or respondents to the questionnaire, the study analysis provides a range of benchmarks that have been lacking for hospitals considering lean or Six Sigma. The correlation between deployment of improvement methods within study hospitals and improved operational and financial performance appeared equivocal. However, based on the success of these methods in other industries and an increasing number of hospital case studies, the study suggests that the next step forward should be a broader deployment of lean and Six …

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I expected to see more reported success with LEAN and Six Sigma in healthcare in the current recession and political climate. I was surprised to see that about 25% of the respondents were LEAN/Six Sigma Leaders. I just finished a book, titled Improving Healthcare Quality and Cost with Six Sigma, by Dr. Brett Trusko at the Mayo Clinic, and other LEAN Six Sigma experts. It was exciting to read of the many successful case studies, and list of so many new converts to LEAN Six Sigma.

This survey was in contrast to the results reported in the book.

Will there be another survey in another year? Perhaps there will be more respondents and better LEAN implementation. I'm just a bit biased.
--Kenneth Wu, 08-10-2009


ASQ really needs to do more work in this area. First, you should target only hospitals with 300+ beds as they are large enough to sustain a program. Second, you need to follow up on the larger hospitals and understand for those doing a good job with lean six sigma what works or does not work.
--Vin Capasso , 08-10-2009


I'm surprised that clinical laboratory wasn't one of the ancillary services mentioned in the survey. I'm aware of many hospitals, including ours, where Lean started in the laboratory and then moved into other areas. Did the surveyors fail to include laboratory as a choice, or did survey respondents fail to mention laboratory? The clinical laboratory is a natural place to start a lean or six sigma initiative. The lab is more like a production environment than any other place in a hospital and lab scientists already know the principles of the scientific method (DMAIC) and experimentation, so it is an easy "sell" to them.
--Tom Persoon, 08-04-2009


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