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THE GRADUAL LEANING OF HEALTH SYSTEMS

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Over the last decade or so, industrial engineering techniques gradually have moved into healthcare. This offers a tremendous opportunity to expand the implementation of proven methodologies for process improvement and a tremendous challenge to apply these carefully in a healthcare setting. Transferring improvement techniques from manufacturing to healthcare makes sense. Healthcare is ripe for improvement. Clearly, process improvement is needed in healthcare -- now. Unfortunately, most healthcare processes are not ready for rigorous application of Six Sigma methodologies and probably operate at a one or two sigma level. Healthcare often uses push systems for supplies and this can be a comfortable area to demonstrate the value of pull systems. A more valuable teaching example unique to healthcare is the flow of patients through a hospital or other healthcare setting. The way lean training is structured and provided is important as well. In addition to ad hoc lean training when needed, at Six Sigma for Sisters of St Francis Health Services they are developing a lean leader program within the overall lean Six Sigma program.

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