A new study from Monash University in Melborne is showing how hospitals may benefit from Six Sigma and Lean Management – whether they want it or not. Lean Management focuses on reducing waste and Six Sigma’s data-driven methods help eliminate defects in any process, two keys that are helping hospitals run smoother. Researchers found increasing patient numbers, decreased staff and the burdens of health care reform have made the need for efficiency even greater. Here’s what the study showed.

Reduced Wait Times

Researchers focused on how LSS can help reduce wait times in the emergency department (ED) of a large hospital. The same principles that help automobile and manufacturing industries improve productivity and efficiency were applied to the process of assessing and stabilizing patients. The results showed a decrease in the time it takes to admit a patient into the ED and find a bed for them.

A Trickle-Down Effect

While reduced ED wait times was the main goal of the research, overall productivity improved. Implementing LSS improved the flow of patients from admission, through various units and ultimately to their discharge. Specifically, researchers found the new process opened more beds in the rehabilitation unit, allowing for increased patient flow and quicker discharge. High bed occupancy levels and increased in-patient numbers are two huge factors contributing to increased costs and employee stress. LSS helped bring down both of these factors. The money saved was spent on bed monitoring software, further increasing patient flow. Overall, LSS helped the ED run smoother, reduced the amount of time patients have to wait for a bed and reduced work stress levels.

Professors involved in the research noted that for LSS to be successful in hospitals, facilities need to have an “excellent implementation process-a process that takes the time to involve the key stakeholders, including front line staff.” As the study shows, LSS has benefits across all industries.

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