Describe the applications for Six Sigma in health care organizations.

Describe the applications for Six Sigma in health care organizations.

HCA 3301, Health Care Management 1

Course Learning Outcomes for Unit VI Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:

4. Analyze the finance system in a health care organization. 4.1 Explain the three-step method for controlling a health care organization. 4.2 Describe the use of cause-and-effect diagrams in health care control systems.

5. Evaluate ways to improve the quality of patient care in a health care setting.

5.1 Describe the applications for Six Sigma in health care organizations. 5.2 Explain how health care leaders can achieve an overall culture of quality.

Course/Unit Learning Outcomes

Learning Activity

4.1 Chapter 12 Unit VI Assessment

4.2 Chapter 12 Unit VI Assessment

5.1 Unit Lesson Chapter 12 Unit VI Assessment

5.2 Unit Lesson Chapter 11 Unit VI Assessment

Required Unit Resources Chapter 11: Leading: Culture and Ethics Chapter 12: Controlling and Improving Performance

Unit Lesson

Six Sigma Applied to Health Care As you are learning in your readings for this unit, successful health care organizations create a culture of continuous performance improvement. That is what makes them successful. Let’s take a look at one of the most successful ways to build a culture of performance improvement, the Six Sigma program. Six Sigma has certainly earned recognition as a leading system for managing quality and efficiency in industries around the world. The success stories from companies like Motorola, Toyota, Honda of America, and General Electric demonstrate that the Six Sigma process has real value, but does it apply well in health care? Let us consider that topic in our lesson for Unit VI. Every health care organization should seek to continuously improve its processes and outcomes. In fact, The Joint Commission (TJC), which accredits health care facilities insists upon that. One of the key aspects of the TJC site visit for initial accreditation or tri-annual re-accreditation is a review of the organization’s performance improvement (PI) activities. The primary focus of health care PI today is on improving patient safety and patient satisfaction. To become accredited and stay accredited, hospitals must be continuously improving their services.


Controlling in Health Care

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Better Informed Patients Today, patients have the internet to help them make informed decisions about their health care. More and more data is available online to help patients decide which doctor to choose for primary care or specialty care and which hospital to choose for ancillary and inpatient services. Patients can look at satisfaction scores posted online, read reviews from patients and families, and study actual accreditation data. Never before have patients had access to this much information about caregivers and potential caregivers to help them make decisions. That is where Six Sigma comes in. Six Sigma has gained acclaim as a management tool for organizations to improve their business processes. Those improvements are actually achieved by reducing the likelihood of errors taking place. Six Sigma intends to improve the quality of services provided, enhance customer satisfaction, and thereby increase profitability. More customers, happy customers, and repeat customers, all leading to higher profit levels. In health care, simply replace the word “customer” with “patient” and you will have the concept. In fact, today progressive health care facilities are thinking about their patients as customers first and foremost (Aminu, 2018). In health care, quality problems, which Six Sigma terms defects, can sometimes be the determining factor between life and death for a patient. That reality ascribes a special level of importance to Six Sigma for medicine. Some of the defects that we see too often in health care include the following:

Some health care executives look at the complexity of Six Sigma and the upfront cost for training and certifications and wonder if it is really worth it. Yes, it is a challenging strategy to master and execute, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

HCA 3301, Health Care Management 3



Variation: The Enemy of Quality In the world of Six Sigma, variation is the worst enemy of quality. Quality comes from doing things the right way every time, taking variation down to the smallest possible factor. As we reduce variations in health care processes and identify best practices for each aspect of diagnosis and care, we are improving quality. If you really think about it, this is not very different from reducing variations in manufacturing an automobile or a smart phone. The focus is on reducing errors and finding the best steps to achieve a quality product (Aminu, 2018). Additionally, Six Sigma facilitates positive change in medical processes. When everyone involved realizes that we are trying to find best practices and reduce variation, they are more open to positive change. We all want safe and efficient health care, but our goals are often crippled by medical errors and defects in care. Comprehensive application of Six Sigma can help to reduce these variations to the barest minimum.

DMAIC Methodology The best understanding of Six Sigma methodology comes from the term DMAIC. Let’s apply that to health care before we conclude this lesson. Define: First, we must identify the patient population to be studied, including their needs and wants for health care. We must also define the objectives of the process and its capabilities. Measure: Next, we must decide what to measure. What variables will give us the best indication of the needed improvements and our progress toward them? Patient satisfaction, service cost, and clinical outcomes are a few such measures. Analyze: Then, we apply the Six Sigma tools to analyze data collected, ensuring efficiency. This analysis stage may involve complex statistical techniques and special training is often required at this level. Improve: The improve stage comes next, and here we may undergo several changes and modifications, tracking progress with each change. Key is effective monitoring of the performance of these improvements. Not all of them may actually work! That is okay; failures are simply part of the process. Control: The next stage consolidates gains from previous stages. Here, we may see new policies written or new protocols put in place. We need to make sure that the gains from the first four steps are maintained, and we want them to become permanent (Aminu, 2018; Olden, 2019).

Conclusion Absolutely, Six Sigma does apply to health care, and the most progressive health systems around the nation are already embracing it. For an aspiring health care leader, certification as a Six Sigma Black Belt is one of the most valuable qualifications that you can bring to your health system. That certification provides immediate value to your organization. That is something to think about as you plan your own career in health care today!

References Aminu, M. [Drmahey]. (2018, September 30). Six Sigma in healthcare: Concept, benefits and examples. Dr.

Aminu. Olden, P. C. (2019). Management of healthcare organizations: An introduction (3rd ed.). Health

Administration Press.

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Suggested Unit Resources In order to access the following resource, click the link below. To learn more about the controlling functions, specifically in health care, please read this article from a leading health care journal, Human Resources for Health. Cogin, J. A., Ng, J. L., & Lee, I. (2016, September 20). Controlling healthcare professionals: How human

resource management influences job attitudes and operational efficiency. Human Resources for Health, 14, Article 55.

Learning Activities (Nongraded) Nongraded Learning Activities are provided to aid students in their course of study. You do not have to submit them. If you have questions, contact your instructor for further guidance and information. The Chapter 11 Quiz reinforces information on the lesson content that you will find helpful. A PDF of the Chapter 11 Quiz is also available. The Chapter 12 Matching activity reinforces information on the lesson content that you will find helpful. A PDF of the Chapter 12 Matching activity is also available.

Required Unit Resources
Unit Lesson
Six Sigma Applied to Health Care
Better Informed Patients
Variation: The Enemy of Quality
DMAIC Methodology
Suggested Unit Resources
Learning Activities (Nongraded)

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