Creating a culture of continual improvement in healthcare with Lean Six Sigma

Creating a mindset of continual improvement in a sector – healthcare – with zero margin for error is why Ohio-based Kettering College is now teaching Lean Six Sigma.

Accredited by PeopleCert to deliver the training, it’s believed the college’s healthcare-focused Lean Six Sigma course for both staff and students is the first of its kind in the US.

Founded 55 years ago and affiliated to Kettering Medical Center, the college specialises in health science education courses for health professionals, including Masters in Healthcare Administration (MHA) and Master of Science and Nursing (MSN).

John Nunes, director – division of online learning, professional and continuing education – said: “Our job is to help provide future leaders and workers for years to come.

“We’re very focused on doing the right things, what can we learn when things go wrong and how we mitigate that risk in future – this is part of our culture and we know that Lean Six Sigma can help make us a better organisation.”

Having adapted the Lean Six Sigma learning for healthcare professionals, a new cohort of students has already started the course.

The training will also provide green belt training for healthcare managers and black belt training at the MHA and MSN levels. The aim is to train 800 executives up to black belt in Lean Six Sigma.

Why process excellence in healthcare?

“Healthcare is a complex area and our margin for error is zero,” John said.

“Embracing process excellence helps us recognise that we’re never good enough. And the systems approach to thinking is not usually a natural part of healthcare skill sets.

“We have a caring team, but we have got to be better at what we do to provide solutions to our colleagues and our patients, giving people a better quality of life for a longer time.

That means having an approach that mitigates errors and risks and creates solutions that bring higher success rates.”

The Lean Six Sigma value for students

With the first cohort of seniors in healthcare management now studying Lean Six Sigma, what will it mean for the development of these students’ careers?

John added: “We already had an internal process for excellence training, but having Lean Six Sigma gives our students a gold standard to add to their resumes. So, they can increase their marketability and be seen as problem solvers in any industry or sector.

“The requirements are tougher with Lean Six Sigma, but the students are excited about getting yellow belt training and how it will help them in life and differentiate them in their careers.”

And, for the students who progress to working within the Kettering Medical Center network, John anticipates a tangible reduction in errors along with improvement in patient and worker safety and satisfaction.

“In healthcare we face lots of anomalies and complexity, but if we can continually improve it’s a big win for the organisation and our patients.”