A LEAN Day at the Hospital

A dozen people gather for their early morning meeting. The noise of the hustle and bustle of the normal hospital operations fade as the door closes and they settle in to the task at hand. The gathered group represents all specialties of service within the hospital (nurses, nursing assistants, housekeepers, and maintenance and support staff). Their goal is to focus on the operations of a specific area of care within the hospital and apply Lean Six Sigma processes to identify process improvements, leading to cost savings for the organization.

The walls of the meeting room are covered in sticky notes, each one representing a step in the process of what the team is looking at and the “why” that step is being done. Their discussion immediately kicks in and it becomes animated. Each specialty starts chiming in, defending why the step is important and why the step needs to stay in place. As the step is being defended, those outside the concerned specialty start asking the “whys” and making recommendations on how to change the process and justifying why their change would work. As the discussion continues, progress starts being made toward agreeable change and a workable solution to the problem. More sticky notes start going up on the wall, with step by step process notes that would lead to significant process changes. This discussion continues until it is time to start making observation rounds in the area, to get a deeper understanding of the “whys” involved in the process.

Such are the happenings of a well-oiled Lean Six Sigma process in a hospital. Observation of process, in-depth note taking lead back to a meeting room where energized discussions occur between specialties, asking the “whys” and coming up with fresh approaches to old issues. At the end of the week, the team has identified problems, bottlenecks and challenges that adversely affect practice standards, patient care and ultimately patient satisfaction. Formal written change recommendations are then presented to the C-Suite leaders for further analysis and implementation.

Lean Six Sigma is a vital tool in the hospital environment. So many processes and procedures are deeply embedded in the culture. These behaviors are a challenge to change because of the “we have always done it that way” answer to a “why” and a lack of willingness to change course. No matter how obvious the flaws are in current progress, healthcare professionals like to stick to process and feel very uncomfortable with change. Lean Six Sigma is the perfect tool to make changes in deeply embedded institutional processes and breathe life into new, more efficient processes that save time, improve care and satisfaction. These changes ultimately result in cost savings with an organization, which allows the hospital to cost savings to the bottom line for better performance.

If your healthcare organization is in need of a reboot, look to the professionals at 6Sigma.us for a partner that will get you results!

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