The pursuit of less waste, reduced variances and cost-effective, quality care is driving lean six sigma projects at healthcare facilities across the globe—you may be involved in your facility’s full-scale six sigma imitative or you may be applying lean principles to simply improve the productivity of your department.
Lean Six Sigma is not unique to providers. It’s impacting the whole healthcare ecosystem, including vendors like Carestream. It is extensively deployed
throughout our manufacturing organization and it is woven into the fabric of everything that happens on the manufacturing floor.
But the same lean principles that are eliminating waste on the shop floor are also being applied at our front-end to help drive innovation in product development—ensuring what hits hospital hallways has been designed through disciplined problem solving to help overcome our customer’s challenges.
One of the key tenets of Lean Six Sigma is analysis based on fact and direct customer input. So during the very early stages of developing the DRX-Revolution, Carestream’s new entry into the DR mobile imaging market, a team of people went on more than 50 site visits where they not only spoke with rad techs but also observed them conducting mobile imaging exams.
These weren’t just Carestream marketing and management people but rather the software, hardware and electrical engineering team that was assigned the task of developing a new way of approaching an old problem. How do we bring the very best image quality to the sickest patients in the hospital (those in the ICU) in a way that is the most efficient and easiest for the technologist? Seeing and hearing first-hand input from the users empowered the designers to find ways to do things better. They even videotaped them during a routine typical day and mapped out their work process.
The engineers took note of the “waste” in the technologist’s workflow and brainstormed ways to design the product that would eliminate these non-value-added steps. Much the same way that Lean is applied to a manufacturing process.
And sometimes, they just listened.
One tech frustrated by the fact that she couldn’t see driving the x-ray mobile system down the hall said, “I wish the column was made out of glass.” The engineer took that input and although making the column out of glass was not practical, designed a collapsible column so when driving the system it simply just goes away and the tech has a clear driving view. The result of applying the Lean principles is a truly innovative product in a market space where no one thought any further innovation could occur.
Applying Lean Six Sigma methodology is a commitment no matter where it’s deployed—from the hospital to the factory to product development labs. But ultimately applying the principles across the healthcare sphere allows us to work smarter, not harder—and provide more efficient higher quality care.
Are you involved in an LSS project? I’d love to hear your experience.