Six Sigma is a quality improvement method that is being used more frequently in healthcare. This tool was developed and used in industry since around 1980 and began to be used in healthcare in the 1990's (Powell, Rushmer, & Davies, 2009). According to Lighter (2011) "This lean process management system provides quality improvement professionals with the ability to remove non-value added work and improve process efficiency" (p. 287). The healthcare industry needs to find a way to get rid of errors. Today's society demands a lot from the healthcare providers and will not tolerate unnecessary errors, no matter how small they may seem. Six Sigma works ...view middle of the document...
The process does require specifically trained individuals who are proficient in math and statistics but the overall process can be very successful if carried out correctly.
In 1986, Motorola developed Six Sigma to improve product reliability. In business terms this would be defined as a management methodology that attempts to understand and eliminate the negative side effects of variation in the healthcare processes (Corn, 2009). There have been many articles and writings in regard to Six Sigma. It is used not only for a business model but used more frequently in healthcare settings. In an article written by Corn (2009) titled "Six Sigma in Health Care", there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that health care organizations have achieved monumental successes using DMAIC methodology. There has been a great deal of success in radiology departments, oncology departments and other health care service departments because of Six Sigma. Corn (2009) discusses the composition of a Six Sigma team. In a healthcare setting the medical director or senior management typically organizes the effort but it can be organized by other professionals or administrators also. The project's effectiveness depends greatly on the amount of support from management. This support needs to not only be financial but they must be willing to give up the increased manpower needed. This type of effort can be very effective but Corn (2009) also discusses some healthcare organizations being hesitant to adopt a Six Sigma model due to this model being designed for automated processes, not human elements.
In an article titled, "Effective quality improvement: Six Sigma" by Powell, Rushmer, and Davies (2009) discuss the Six Sigma methodology in detail. The authors explore challenges of applying Six Sigma such as the rigorous DMAIC methodology being challenging to apply, and the possibility that the approach seemed to ignore cultural and interpersonal factors. To be effective, Six Sigma is dependent on high quality data, clearly defined outcomes, agreement on what constitutes a defect, and on statistical expertise, all of which are often lacking in healthcare settings (Young et al., 2004).
Jay Greenstein (2012) published an article in a Leadership journal called "Process: Lean Six Sigma Principles." He took a problem and followed the DMAIC methodology step by step explaining what needs done in each step. According to Greenstein (2012) "The idea behind Six Sigma is that in any given business process, there are three to five key steps in that process that must be controlled to get the desired result" (p. 31). The author uses an analogy for this and discusses going out to eat at a favorite restaurant and ordering a favorite dish; the customer expects the same great meal every time, not a variation of the dish.
Pam Carter (2010) discusses the Six Sigma process and admits that she resisted it and came up with excuses so that she didn't have to complete the...