Ready-Fire-Aim. Once again the healthcare profession finally gets around to looking at data, only to discover that it is actually harming patients by treating them. The Los Angeles Times reports that a major nationwide trial called ACCORD released Sunday show that lowering either blood pressure or cholesterol levels below current guidelines do not provide additional benefit and, in fact, increase the risk of side effects. A third arm of the study, released two years ago, shows that lowering blood sugar levels excessively actually increases the risk of heart disease.

The Lean Six Sigma and Quality professions learned long ago that there is no substitute for facts and data. In pursuing Lean Six Sigma so many myths are exploded that we soon come to question any so-called fact that can’t be supported with evidence, with the important exception of creative ideas and innovation. As time goes by the value of this position becomes obvious. As change agents trained in the approach move into positions of leadership the organization’s DNA begins to change.

In most industries mistakes result in an economic loss. Although serious, it is usually possible to learn from mistakes and improve. In contrast healthcare mistakes create health consequences, sometimes as serious as death. Yet the healthcare profession remains incredibly resistant to using facts and data to guide their recommendations and treatment. The ACCORD study is but the latest example. A few years ago the ENHANCE study produced similar lessons regarding the treatment to prevent heart disease. Other studies show that low cost diuretics are as effective as the high priced prescription medications normally prescribed. Another study showed that the standard treatment for sudden deafness is no better than a placebo. Still another showed that the standard of care for certain breast cancers was based on fraudulent research and killed patients.

All of these studies have a number of things in common. All were conducted to verify treatments that had been in use for many years. All showed that the treatments were either worthless, or worse than worthless. And most have been largely ignored by the healthcare profession.

It’s anyone’s guess when the healthcare profession will join the business community in embracing process improvement. Let’s hope it happens soon, before change is forced upon them.

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