Main content

What are the Benefits of Applying Lean Six Sigma in Healthcare?

importance VOC healthcare management

As the healthcare industry continues to expand, industry leaders must balance reducing costs and improving operational efficiency with providing healthcare services that lead to improved patient outcomes.  
 
Lean Six Sigma helps organizations identify process improvement opportunities in a variety of areas, including management and clinical processes, instilling a continuous improvement culture, improving supply chains and managing sustainability efforts. 
 
Earning a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt For Healthcare certificate allows leaders to discover the tools and techniques of Lean Six Sigma and how they can be leveraged to help achieve strategic goals, particularly in the areas of eliminating waste, reducing defects and mistakes, and focusing on making improvements that benefit patients. 
 
What is a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt? 
 
Much like martial artists who gain colored belts matching their level of expertise, Lean Six Sigma designates belt levels to practitioners based on their skills and knowledge in Lean Six Sigma. A Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt represents the starting belt for Lean Six Sigma beginners and this training introduces participants to the common terms, concepts and tools used in the methodology. Yellow Belt training also provides a steppingstone to individuals interested in achieving more advanced belt levels such as Green Belt and Black Belt.  
 
Lean Six Sigma combines the tools and techniques from Lean methodology and Six Sigma. Lean focuses on eliminating waste and placing the needs of customers at the center of every business decision. Six Sigma is a data-driven methodology that focuses on reducing variance in process, which in turn reduces the errors that lead to defects in a service or product.  
 
Those with a Green Belt designation focus on ways to apply tools in the methodology to real-world situations. That includes the ability to identify Lean Six Sigma project opportunities, methods for finding the root cause of problems, selecting the best solutions for each unique situation and understanding the five phases of DMAIC. 
 
DMAIC, one of the most popular strategies in Six Sigma, stands for:

  • Define: Defining a challenge and building a case for why and how to change it. 
  • Measure: Setting goals, calculating performance standards and ensuring new processes contribute to an organization’s overall effectiveness. 
  • Analyze: Sifting data to find issues such as process redundancy. 
  • Improve: Creating, implementing and sustaining process improvement measures, and then creating standards to measure their effectiveness. 
  • Control: Adjusting new processes that ensure all goals are met.  
In Lean Six Sigma projects, Green Belts typically collect and analyze data and oversee Yellow Belts' work, often under the direction of a Black Belt.  
 
How Lean Six Sigma Can Make an Impact in Healthcare 
 
Individuals who choose to earn a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt For Healthcare certificate are taught how to apply what they learn specifically to healthcare. Experts have found many areas where the methodology has proven useful in healthcare settings. 
 
A National Library of Medicine study found that Lean Six Sigma practitioners have the potential of making significant changes in minimizing defects and waste associated with surgical procedures. The study also supported the idea of using the methodology to address issues with healthcare supply chains, making them more resilient to the type of issues faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
 
The impact of Lean Six Sigma in healthcare can also be illustrated through real-world success. For example, Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle adopted Lean Six Sigma principles to transform its operations and improve patient care. Through initiatives such as daily huddles, Gemba walks (on-site observations) and value stream mapping, Virginia Mason reduced patient wait times, enhanced staff communication and achieved significant cost savings. 
 
Similarly, ThedaCare, a healthcare system in Wisconsin, embraced Lean Six Sigma to address challenges such as medication errors and patient flow issues. By implementing standardized work processes, cross-functional teams, and performance metrics, ThedaCare improved patient safety, reduced hospital-acquired infections, and optimized operational efficiency across its facilities. 
 
Emory’s Lean Six Sigma Green Belt for Healthcare Certificate 
 
The Lean Six Sigma Green Belt for Healthcare Certificate through Emory Continuing Education (ECE) is one of a series of Lean Six Sigma certificates offered online. The flexible programs are designed for busy professionals who can schedule study around their existing responsibilities. 
 
Students in the Green Belt for Healthcare program explore the use of data-driven tools and techniques to increase cost savings, create better bottom-line results and improve patient satisfaction. As part of the certificate, students will have live sessions with their instructor, an expert in using Lean Six Sigma in healthcare. 
 
Program objectives include the ability to identify and charter potential Lean Six Sigma projects consistent with healthcare organizational needs, as well as executing a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt healthcare project through all five DMAIC phases. Participants will demonstrate their knowledge by passing the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certification examination offered online at no additional cost. 
 
 
Learn more about the Emory Lean Six Sigma Green Belt for Healthcare certificate.