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Qual Manag Health Care. 2003 Jan-Mar;12(1):53-63.

Ancillary services in the health care industry: is Six Sigma reasonable?

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Ancillary Services, Naval Medical Center, San Diego, California, USA.


Within the naval medical center construct, the disparate disciplines encompassed within ancillary services lend themselves to formal quality analysis and process improvement. This analysis uses the Six Sigma approach. Error rates were investigated and calculated for various processes within ancillary services at Naval Medical Center, San Diego. These were translated into the common metric of defects per million opportunities (DPMO). DPMO rates vary between 21.5 and 420,000. These correspond to Sigma values from 1.7 to approaching 6. Rates vary with biological complexity of the system and the degree of automation available. Some ancillary services translate well into a Six Sigma schema. Systems with high potential patient risk if performed poorly and those amenable to second checking and computer oversight may be candidates for such optimization. This should be undertaken in a local environment conducive to individual error reporting, and in a corporate environment with the will and funding to support the transition.

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