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Qual Manag Health Care. 2010 Oct-Dec;19(4):312-8. doi: 10.1097/QMH.0b013e3181fa0783.

Lean Six Sigma in health care and the challenge of implementation of Six Sigma methodologies at a Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

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Department of Medicine, Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Health Care System, University of Minnesota, 1 Veterans Drive, Minneapolis, MN 55417, USA.


Six Sigma and Lean Thinking are quality initiatives initially deployed in industry to improve operational efficiency leading to better quality and subsequent cost savings. The financial rationale for embarking on this quality journey is clear; applying it to today's health care remains challenging. The cost of medical care is increasing at an alarming rate; most of these cost increases are attributed to an aging population and technological advances; therefore, largely beyond control. Furthermore, health care cost increases are caused by unnecessary operational inefficiency associated with the direct medical service delivery process. This article describes the challenging journey of implementing Six Sigma methodology at a tertiary care medical center. Many lessons were learned; however, of utmost importance were team approach, "buy in" of the stakeholders, and the willingness of team members to change daily practice and to adapt new and innovative ways how health care can be delivered. Six Sigma incorporated as part of the "company's or hospital's culture" would be most desirable but the learning curve will be steep.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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