University Students Apply Lean Six Sigma Theories to Solve Real-World Healthcare Challenges

University Students Apply Lean Six Sigma Theories to Solve Real-World Healthcare Challenges

By Discovery Lean Six Sigma

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At Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y., students have taken the tools and techniques learned by becoming Lean Six Sigma Green Belts and applied them to helping local hospitals and health organizations become more efficient.

Students successfully completed three projects with staff at Canton-Potsdam Hospital, the Community North Country Health Center and the St. Lawrence Health Initiative. The projects included making improvements in inter-hospital patient transfers and improving information accuracy during the patient registration process.

The students’ success joins a growing list of Lean and Six Sigma projects completed recently by students. They include addressing food waste issues at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind.; the implementation of process improvement at school districts across the country; and Singapore Management University and other institutes of higher learning applying Lean and Six Sigma methodologies to improve operations at schools and at local businesses.

Three Healthcare Projects

The projects at Clarkson University involved nine Engineering and Management students. Leadership for the projects came from Assistant Professor Cecilia Martinez, whose research interests include quality management, project management and Lean Systems Engineering.

Martinez not only provided guidance for the projects, but also offered Green Belt certification in Lean Six Sigma to the students at no cost.

The three projects included the following:

  • Reducing average time and variability for inter-hospital patient transfers. The project resulted in a 41% reduction in time – from 39 to 23 minutes – and allowed the hospitals to consistently meet the goal of transferring patients in less than 30 minutes.
  • Reduction in time and variability for transferring ER patients to intensive care within the same hospital. The project resulted in a 46% reduction in average transferring time, from 154 minutes to 84 minutes.
  • Improving the accuracy of patient information during the registration process. The project resulted in 98% of the patients being correctly checked in, up from 20%.

The success of these projects follows similar success at Clarkson University in 2017. Led by Martinez, 11 Engineering and Management students applied Lean methodologies to make positive changes at healthcare operations in the area. They included:

  • Reducing the business days in the preoperative schedule from 37 to 24
  • Reducing time to access safe patient handling equipment from seven to three minutes
  • Reducing average orthopedics patient waiting time in the registration area at St. Lawrence from 16.5 minutes to 10.5 minutes

Applying Lean Six Sigma to solving organizational challenges is increasingly a focus for university programs. Villanova University, for example, offers a Lean Six Sigma certificate program that includes a focus on innovation and management. And, applying Lean Six Sigma in healthcare settings is not entirely new. For example, the Kelley School Physician MBA Program at Indiana University integrates Lean Six Sigma into its courses.

A Shift in Focus

At Clarkson University, the Lean Six Sigma projects are part of a framework developed by Martinez that shifts the focus from a teacher’s role as primary knowledge provider to students as active learning participants.

The approach includes guided student interventions, mentoring and offering constructive feedback. In the case of the Lean Six Sigma projects, Martinez fostered a collaborative effort with the local healthcare agencies that allowed students to directly apply Lean Six Sigma knowledge and benefit the healthcare operations.

The effort included weekly mentoring meetings with students, working sessions between students and the staff at the healthcare operations and onsite process evaluation, data collection and data analysis.

Martinez presented her approach at the 2018 IISE Engineering Lean Six Sigma Conference. Her goal is to create environments where students can learn theoretical knowledge and develop the ability to apply it in ways that benefit organizations.

The post University Students Apply Lean Six Sigma Theories to Solve Real-World Healthcare Challenges appeared first on Six Sigma Daily.

By: James LoPresti
Posted: November 16, 2018, 12:00 pm

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