I am hearing and reading more and more about six-sigma and lean management techniques for hospitals. Can you explain to me what these are about? As a nurse, do I really need to know about them? Why are they such a hot topic now?
Hospital are dealing with some very tough economic issues today. Rising drug costs and material costs are reducing profit margins. Hospitals are being forced to slash medical procedure costs to compete for the reduced number of patients with commercial insurance. While profits are being eroded due to lack of revenue, there exists an opportunity to restore and maintain the proper margins through (1) the use of increased cost management techniques and (2) an increase in productivity. Two of the most popular techniques to do this are (1) Six-Sigma and (2) Lean.
1. The Six Sigma Approach (reducing the problems) is designed to reduce costs and increase patient satisfaction through statistical analysis and a reduction of the problems in the system. An example of this would be to compare OR times required for various procedures. A look at the variance between surgery time among surgeons can identify areas of cost savings. Surgeons can be made aware of these variances and wasteful practices and irregularities can be reduced.
2. The Lean Approach (reducing the waste) attempts to maximize patient value and improve the patient’s experience while reducing waste. Waste can be manifested in many forms: time wasted through non value-added tasks; cost related to wasted materials; superfluous resources not adding value to the patient’s experience.
Please let me know how you and your hospital is using six-sigma and lean management techniques. I hope to write more about these applications.