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Power Of Six Sigma In Hospital and Healthcare Management

Pradeep Bhardwaj

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Corporatisation and competition in healthcare sector are forcing healthcare organisations to look for new ways and means for improving their processes. This is for improving quality of the hospital’s products and services and reducing patient dissatisfaction. As healthcare sector is becoming more complex, the opportunities for errors abound.

To reduce the errors and to move towards perfection, most of the corporate hospitals are now functioning at Three Sigma or Four Sigma quality levels. There is a need to breakdown the traditional boundaries that separate physicians, hospital administrators, pharmacists, technicians and nurses by shifting away from a culture of blame and by working together to systematically design safer, more effective and efficient systems. Six Sigma methodologies can help in this and can change the face of modern hospital and healthcare delivery system. Six Sigma can reduce variability and waste, translating to fewer errors, improve customer satisfaction, provide better processes, greater patient satisfaction rates, and happier and more productive staff. The popularity of Six Sigma is growing in healthcare industry. Many companies worldwide have already successfully implemented Six Sigma.

What Is Six Sigma

Six Sigma simply means a measure of quality that strives for perfection. It is disciplined, has a data-driven approach and methodology for eliminating defect in any process. Six Sigma provides a methodology to continue our improvement in everything we do. It is an organisational philosophy in establishing the belief of ‘doing things right, first time and every time’.


  • The term Six Sigma means standard deviation.
  • Standard deviation measures how much variation exists in a distribution of data.
  • Standard deviation is the key factor in determining the acceptable number of defective units found in a population.
  • The target for perfection is the achievement of no more than 3.4 defects per million opportunities.
  • The principles can apply to a wide variety of processes and services.
  • Six Sigma projects normally follow a five-phase improvement process called DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control).
  • Six Sigma requires commitment from the whole organisation.
  • Six Sigma healthcare organisations have the ability and willingness to adopt contrary objectives, like reducing medical errors and getting things done faster.
  • It is customer focussed and raises performance at breakthrough level.

How And When To Use It?

First you need to determine your cost of poor quality. Six Sigma is complimentary to other initiatives such as ISO, JACHO, TQM, NABH etc.

In a hospital, everything is built on integrity, trust and care. There is requirement for a fairly high level of understanding between hospital administrators, doctors, nurses, supportive staff and providers of services. Also, suppliers need to understand the sensitivities of the business. Clinches are not been discussed here, but these are life, death and every personal issue. First of all, hospital must develop new ways of doing business in order to achieve excellent clinical outcomes, patient safety and optimal financial results. The above can be achieved in the following way:

  • Understand who your consumers are and what your service is.
  • Review consumer surveys, concession reports and other data.
  • Screen and prioritise issues by severity, frequently/likelihood of occurrence etc.
  • Determine the internal processes causing the most dissatisfaction and pain.
  • Find out why and where the defects are occurring.
  • Devise ways to address these defects effectively.
  • Set up good metrics (Six Sigma places a lot of emphasis on measurement).
  • Phases Of Six Sigma

There are six phases of Six Sigma:

  • Establish management commitment.
  • Business diagnostics.
  • Develop the management infrastructure.
  • Business process identification and metrics.
  • Project selection.
  • Deployment- training, project execution, and review.
  • Training Centres

Implementing Six Sigma within your healthcare organisation is similar to implementing any other company-wide initiative. Six Sigma training is the most important factor that contributes to and helps modify and shape an organisation’s culture. Main training centres are:

1) GE Medical System delivers a Six Sigma Master Black Belt course designed exclusively for healthcare professionals.

2) Indian Statistical Institute
7, SJS Sansanwal Marg, New Delhi – 16
Phone: 011 – 51493967

3) Quality Council of India
Institute of Engineers Building
BSZ Marg, New Delhi – 02
Phone: 011 – 23379321

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