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Targeting Trouble Areas With Six Sigma Tactics Shows Major Results

Matt Phillion, for HealthLeaders Media, December 30, 2009

"We increased our availability, not just volumes of blood, because we had people backed up wanting to donate, but prior to Lean Six Sigma we were only able to capture 30 units a day per vehicle," says Schaffer. After Six Sigma? That number jumped to 75 units a day per vehicle.

Successes occurred inside the walls as well.

"The one that really touches me the most directly, that we're the most thrilled about—we have a hospital in Burbank whose ED was overwhelmed at all times," says Schaffer.

The ED had a diversion rate between 25% and 30%. It was this facility that saw its diversion rate drop down to 3%.

"It was a total redesign, but not physical," says Schaffer.

EDs have a lot of similarities across the country—it has been said that EDs are 80% the same regardless of facility. ("That 20% is a big difference," notes Schaffer.) Most ED staff "grew up" in another ED. They've worked in the same environment most of their lives. This means you've got to use a zero-base process redesign.

"The black belts help the team to do this," says Schaffer. "They see no boundaries."

Those new eyes mean it's possible to entirely change a department, while retaining the same walls, layout, staff, and equipment.

Other improvements:

  • The percentage of patients who left the ED without seeing a physician dropped from 8% to 3%
  • Patient satisfaction skyrocketed—prior to Six Sigma in the ED, patient satisfaction hovered at 67%, and jumped to 97% afterward
  • Positive responses to wait times climbed from 44% to 85%

Look for an extended version of this article in the upcoming issue of Briefings on The Joint Commission.


Matt Phillion, CSHA, is senior managing editor of Briefings on The Joint Commission and senior editorial advisor for the Association for Healthcare Accreditation Professionals (AHAP).

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