Six Sigma is about improving quality continuously by eliminating defects. A six sigma process is one where the probability of defect is just 3.4 per million parts. One industry in which defect in process or output results in maximum damage is the healthcare industry. Unlike other industries a mistake or defect in processes can be a matter of life and death in healthcare.There is nothing like product recalls in this industry.
United States is the most developed country with a very sophisticated healthcare industry that has state-of-the-art infrastructure and facilities. Still the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of America estimates that nearly 1 lakh people die every year in America due to mistakes made by doctors and other professionals working in the healthcare industry. Another study by Harvard University claims that 1.3 million Americans face injury annually due to mistakes at hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
If this is the scenario in America, then the situation must be worse in India which has a much less sophisticated healthcare infrastructure. Ironically Six Sigma has still not found large scale application in this crucial sector. Training of healthcare professionals in Six Sigma will go a long way in reducing errors made by them. This in turn will improve the quality of healthcare delivered to citizens. The quality of healthcare is an important component of the quality of life in a country.
Application of six sigma techniques in healthcare processes will enable identification of root cause of defects, errors and problems. It will result in reduction in variability of processes. A process oriented approach should be nurtured among healthcare professionals. Large hospitals aiming to deliver high quality health services should invest in training their staff in Six Sigma.The simple Six Sigma approach of DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control) can go a long way in improving healthcare services. Patient care processes can be made more effective through the use of Six Sigma techniques.
A few healthcare organizations have started implementing Six Sigma. And they are seeing positive results. It is high time that the rest of the industry sees the importance of Six Sigma. The cost of errors in healthcare industry is much higher than in any other industry. Six Sigma is therefore more important for healthcare sector than for any other one.