Lean Six Sigma 4 HEALTHCARE
The HealthCare Sector is going through fundamental technology-enabled changes in the way care is delivered, how providers interact with their patients, and how payments are made. To take advantage of digital technology and create more effective systems that help health professionals deliver better care, providers are moving rapidly toward becoming digital enterprises. For example, they are borrowing lessons from e-commerce leaders on how to acquire and retain patients through data analytics and from manufacturing entities on managing patient throughput and optimizing clinical supply chains. Providers are also leveraging apps on smartphones to engage patients remotely in new ways that improve outcomes, and they are using digital technologies to support clinical decisions and streamline hospital operations. In this way, the adoption of more sophisticated analytics has simplified processes and significantly reduced manual workloads.
The pressure of enabling the digital enterprise is landing squarely on the shoulders of the IT department, and this presents tough challenges in a sector that has traditionally lagged behind others in the adoption of information technology.
IT departments will need to take a comprehensive view of how to meet the demands of all core IT functions rather than undertake discrete initiatives. IT leaders will have to address topics such as IT-infrastructure architecture and services, cybersecurity, advanced analytics and data management, and the rationalization of application portfolios. IT departments must carefully juggle a “two-speed IT infrastructure”—balancing the acceleration of new digital capabilities against the maintenance of legacy systems
All this will require a more efficient and effective IT workforce. That is why the application of Lean Six Sigma principles is one important element for HealthCare providers across the globe pursuing digitization.
In many respects, the IT department of a typical HealthCare provider is similar to the IT functions of companies in other sectors. Each IT team deals with the common challenges of keeping servers running, rolling out new applications, and supporting end-user devices, such as PCs, tablets, and smartphones.
In general, HealthCare providers can benefit from nearly all the tried-and-true lean-IT methodologies. For example, most IT departments could stand to improve the processes for defining new IT projects, such as incorporating mobile devices in patient care, gathering requirements for application development, or streamlining the response to service disruptions or cyberincidents.
Common Lean Six Sigma IT levers applicable to the HealthCare Sector:
- Standardizing routine processes;
- segmenting work by complexity and urgency;
- pooling resources to break down technology silos;
- cross-training teams on multiple systems or platforms to build a more flexible workforce;
- eliminating activities that don’t add value.
In many industries, including HealthCare, the availability and stability of IT systems are critical to business success, with down-time resulting in lost revenue or incremental expenses. For Healthcare providers, IT can also be critical to patient care. For example, hospitals increasingly are relying on wireless technology to monitor the vital signs of intensive-care patients. As a result, it is perhaps only a slight overstatement to say that stable healthcare IT can literally be a matter of life and death.
Broad-scale ‘White Glove’ service
Most IT departments provide “white glove,” expedited service to the company’s chief executives and top revenue generators, such as the trading floor of an investment bank, and these groups usually represent 5 to 10 percent of the workforce. At HealthCare providers, IT departments must prioritize requests from physicians, who probably represent a much larger—yet equally demanding—percentage of the workforce.
Greater variability in computer proficiency
Doctors, nurses, and technicians usually spend less of their time at computers. As a result, there may be greater variability in IT proficiency at healthcare providers and a need for more extensive coaching and change management.
Highly regulated industry
Managing the implications of regulatory-compliance guidelines—such as system access, security, privacy, and audits—is often a larger part of IT in the HealthCare sector than in other industries. As a result, lean practitioners have to work more closely with the legal and compliance departments to ensure that any changes in IT comply with multiple levels of regulation.
Growth of clinical devices
Around the world, private and public HealthCare providers are increasing investments in digital technologies. The IT departments of HealthCare providers often must manage and maintain an increasing number of end-user devices, such as blood-pressure monitors and magnetic-resonance-imaging machines, which often store patient data locally. These clinical-technology devices are above and beyond the standard IT fare of PCs, smartphones, and tablets. With additional demand comes added burdens, including increased network traffic and decentralized storage requirements.
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