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Improving Healthcare Quality and Cost with Six Sigma

Improving Healthcare Quality and Cost with Six Sigma

by Brett Trusko, Carolyn Pexton, Jim Harrington, Praveen K. Gupta

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The Definitive Six Sigma Guide for Healthcare: Methodologies, Tools, and Metrics

Rising costs are making healthcare unaffordable for millions, and 100,000 people die every year due to medical error. Healthcare must change–dramatically. Many leading healthcare institutions are discovering a powerful toolset for addressing both quality and


The Definitive Six Sigma Guide for Healthcare: Methodologies, Tools, and Metrics

Rising costs are making healthcare unaffordable for millions, and 100,000 people die every year due to medical error. Healthcare must change–dramatically. Many leading healthcare institutions are discovering a powerful toolset for addressing both quality and cost: Six Sigma. In this hands-on, start-to-finish guidebook, four leading experts introduce Six Sigma from the unique standpoint of the healthcare professional, showing exactly how to implement it in real-world environments.

Drawing on their unsurpassed experience, the authors offer step-by-step methodologies, tools, and metrics–all thoroughly adapted to the unique realities of healthcare. They demonstrate how to utilize Six Sigma’s Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control (DMAIC) process to address even the most challenging problems. They also offer realistic guidance on rolling out Six Sigma initiatives that deliver rapid and sustainable value.

The authors show Six Sigma at work in every area of the hospital: clinical, radiology, surgery, ICU, cardiovascular, laboratories, emergency, trauma, administrative services, staffing, billing, cafeteria, even central supply. You'll learn why Six Sigma can produce better results than other quality initiatives, how it brings new rigor and discipline to healthcare delivery, and how it can be used to sustain ongoing improvements for the long term.

Coverage includes

· Adapting Six Sigma methodology, tools, and measurements for healthcare

· Designing more successful experiments

· Rolling out your Six Sigma initiative successfully

· Case studies from every area of the hospital, from the ICU to billing

· Six Sigma templates modified fully for the healthcare environment

Comprehensive and user-friendly, this book will be indispensable to everyone concerned with quality or cost: administrators, managers, physicians, and quality specialists alike. Where Six Sigma is already in use or being considered, it will serve as a shared blueprint for the entire team.


Foreword xx

Introduction xxi

Part I: The Need for Cutting Costs and Improving Quality in Healthcare 1

Chapter 1 Trends in the Healthcare Industry 3

Chapter 2 Excellence (Benchmarks) and Improvement Challenges in the Healthcare System 21

Chapter 3 Applicability of Six Sigma in Healthcare Organizations 31

Part II: Methodology, Tools, and Measurements 59

Chapter 4 The Healthcare Opportunity 61

Chapter 5 Six Sigma Methodology 77

Chapter 6 Understanding Problems: Define, Measure, and Analyze 89

Chapter 7 Solving Problems: Improve and Control 129

Part III: Benefiting from Six Sigma 161

Chapter 8 Case Study Introduction and Profiles 163

Chapter 9 Clinical Case Studies 181

Chapter 10 Operational Case Studies 203

Part IV: Rolling Out and Sustaining Six Sigma 239

Chapter 11 Implementing a Six Sigma Culture 241

Chapter 12 Lean Six Sigma in Healthcare 373

Chapter 13 The Road Ahead 401

Part V: Appendixes 431

Appendix A PMBOK Tools and Techniques 433

Appendix B The Six Sigma Body of Knowledge 437

Appendix D Total Six Sigma Tools Self-Evaluation Form 445

Appendix D Additional Resources 451

Appendix E The Man I Want To Be! 453

Index 455

Product Details

FT Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
New Edition
Product dimensions:
7.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt


This book is an introduction to quality methods, Six Sigma, and healthcare. No doubt, if you purchase this book you are concerned about the quality issue and the future of healthcare. You have probably tried TQM (Total Quality Management), CQI (Continuous/Clinical Quality Improvement), and a number of other approaches to improving quality in your organization. We too have thought about this long and hard throughout the years as consultants, speakers, and writers in the healthcare field. You might be familiar with Dr. Brett Trusko's work as a futurist who collaborated with the late Russell Coile Jr. Little did he know some 20 years ago that most of our work in healthcare would boil down to quality issues. We have spoken and written about quality, organizational development, motivation, teamwork, information technology, and finance in healthcare with a Pollyanna perspective that with enough caring and hard work we can solve the problems of healthcare. Only recently did we really begin to understand that all these issues were reflective of a dysfunctional system that works against excellence in healthcare.

For example, our healthcare system in the U.S. systematically rewards heroics and intervention while penalizing planning, quality, management, and effectiveness. For years we have reimbursed providers based upon costs while efficiency has generally resulted in lower reimbursements. In our capitalist economy, we usually find that the best provider of a good or service is the one that is the most efficient, not the least. But this is precisely how we handle healthcare in the U.S. The more healthcare resources we consume as providers of healthcare, the more reimbursements we receive. How would we feel about paying a mechanic more for replacing parts that our car doesn't even need? How about rewarding grocery stores for finding the most expensive method of shipping groceries to the store?

Of course, healthcare providers aren't mechanics, and hospitals aren't grocery stores. Hospitals are hospitals and physicians are physicians. Healthcare is generally an imprecise science. However, using the excuse of an imprecise science as a reason not to improve healthcare is irresponsible. In fact, healthcare is an imprecise science, but at the same time there is much in healthcare that can and should be improved.

The authors have worked in healthcare for more than 60 years. We have been unit secretaries, surgical scrub technicians, and administrators. We have seen healthcare finances from the inside out and worked in the clinical setting. Healthcare is not an easy business. Healthcare professionals are some of the most dedicated and caring people on earth. When publications such as the May 1, 2006, edition of Time magazine (Gibbs, 2006) and morning news shows like The Today Show and others prominently feature stories about how to protect yourself from medical errors in a hospital, we would expect to see more healthcare professionals expressing outrage against the system. Dedicated, caring professionals are and should be outraged at the shallow investigative reporting. But the fact is that healthcare professionals usually don't have a very good defense against attacks, because in most cases, they don't really know what happened. They don't know what happened because they don't understand their processes, and they don't understand their processes because the processes tend to be complicated and fluid.

As professionals who have worked in healthcare for so many years, we the authors can personally vouch for the fact that most healthcare providers strive for delivery excellence. These providers have witnessed miracles, such as the snaking of wires from the leg to the brain to clear a clot and save a life. They have seen two-pound premature babies live, and people on the verge of death brought back to living. Miracles of excellence happen constantly in the healthcare provider's world. And when errors occur, healthcare professionals grieve. There may be no other profession or industry that is more driven by a desire for excellence in the world. Unfortunately, processes and systems created by misaligned incentives sometimes make it difficult to provide excellence. This is where discussion of Six Sigma really begins.

Six Sigma is an approach to quality that should appeal to healthcare professionals intrinsically. It is based on improving processes and procedures, based on evidence. One of our authors has a bachelor's degree in biology, two have degrees in engineering, and others have diplomas in business. Dr. Trusko stated in one of our early writers meetings that when he first heard of Six Sigma years ago, it was like coming home. Of course, running a business requires making decisions based upon facts and not just intuition or politics. Unfortunately, this is exactly the way most healthcare provider institutions are run. Now throw into the mix the politics of government funding and insurance companies, and it's no wonder we accomplish anything with healthcare. Not that governments and insurance companies are not trying to do the right thing; in fact, the motivation is based on doing the most good for the most people. Healthcare providers, in a relatively weak bargaining position due to the cottage nature of the industry, generally have to work within the system that the government and the insurance industry have created. But there are things that healthcare providers can do to increase efficiency, reduce malpractice costs, and increase profits. Even in a system that rewards resource utilization, having an intimate understanding of your business, your processes, and the influence you have on outcomes allows the healthcare provider to maximize its revenue while minimizing the anguish of medical mistakes.

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Dr. Brett E. Trusko is a Biomedical Informatics and Healthcare Quality Researcher at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, where he studies healthcare quality issues. He is a frequent keynote speaker as both a healthcare quality professional and a healthcare futurist. He has written several hundred articles on issues related to improving healthcare quality. In addition, he works with organizations to apply innovative thinking to their Six Sigma initiatives. A Master Six Sigma Black Belt, Dr. Trusko’s background includes Board Member, US Health Information Technology Standards Panel, 10 years of clinical experience, and 20 years of consulting with several large multinational consulting firms. He spent several years working closely with the late Russell Coile, Jr. as a healthcare futurist. Dr. Trusko can be reached at brett.trusko@gmail.com.

Carolyn Pexton has more than 20 years’ experience in communications and healthcare, and is currently serving as the director of communications for Performance Solutions at GE Healthcare. In this role, she works closely with healthcare customers and manages public relations, marketing communications, and internal communications for the Performance Solutions team. Pexton is Six Sigma Green Belt-certified, and has presented and published extensively on a variety of topics including Lean Six Sigma and change management within the healthcare industry.

Dr. H. James Harrington is one of only five Grand Master Six Sigma Black Belts worldwide. He has published more than 25 books related to performance improvement. In the book Tech Trending, Dr. Harrington was referred to as “the quintessential tech trender.” The New York Times referred to him as having a “…knack for synthesis and an open mind about packaging his knowledge and experience in new ways—characteristics that may matter more as prerequisites for new-economy success than technical wizardry…” He wrote the book from which other consultants work. Not only has Dr. Harrington been honored with many national and international awards, he has also had four quality awards named after him. Former President Bill Clinton commissioned Dr. Harrington as an ambassador for Good Will.

Praveen Gupta, President of Accelper Consulting, has more than 25 years of experience in business performance improvement. Praveen worked with the inventor while developing the Six Sigma methodology in the late eighties. Praveen has authored several books, including Six Sigma Business Scorecardand Business Innovation. A Master Six Sigma Black Belt, Praveen currently consults with organizations looking for sustained profitable growth through excellence and innovation.

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