A Publication of WTVP

Leadership can be defined in a variety of ways, particularly in a healthcare setting. One way OSF Saint Francis Medical Center decided to position itself as a leader, not just locally, but nationally as well, was by undertaking 6 Sigma methodologies when it comes to improving patient care. Considering that Caterpillar had developed 6 Sigma as part of the company’s commitment to achieving a level of excellence in earth-moving equipment, why wouldn’t we want to use the same approach to patient care?

6 Sigma is a methodology that provides businesses with the tools to improve performance and decrease process variation, which leads to defect reduction and vast improvement in employee morale and quality of service. 6 Sigma was deployed at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in 2001 as a method to reduce variation and drive performance—it helps us understand why variations exist and helps us eliminate them. We are considered a very mature 6 Sigma culture, and leadership is the key driver to success.

6 Sigma methodology supports our mission and vision to pursue perfection in healthcare quality, safety, service and financial integrity. This constant pursuit of perfection provides an opportunity for each of us to accept the personal responsibility for identifying opportunities for improvement in our areas. 6 Sigma provides us with a common language for improvements at all levels.

According to Lisa Fuller, director of 6 Sigma at Saint Francis, the methodology has key distinguishing themes that directly impact the organization, including direct line-of-sight from strategy to action; focusing on the needs of those we serve; data-driven, fact-based decision making; dedicating some of your best people on your highest priorities; improving key business processes; measuring performance improvement; quantifying bottom-line impact; and one of the most rewarding, transforming how people work.

We have seen a significant improvement in cost savings, upwards of $29 million since our deployment of 6 Sigma. The ability to facilitate process and performance improvement can equate to big dollars, yet we need to remember that often 6 Sigma is called to do projects that are strategically aligned, driving patient quality or patient satisfaction and we do not always see that direct impact to the bottom line.

One of the most financially significant projects recently completed was an anticoagulation inpatient project, which had a realized savings of $7.1 million. What is even more powerful is that the project also had a significant impact on patient quality and care.

To date, we have undertaken 208 projects with several more awaiting kick-off. In addition to the anticoagulation project, some of the most recent projects with greatly improved outcomes include: spasticity management at the Illinois Neurological Institute’s Spasticity Clinic; clinical informatics, which focused on the deployment of our electronic medical records system; the Breast Center Process Flow Project, which helped us more efficiently schedule and process diagnostic and screening mammograms; and standardizing pre- and post-operative care in our new building, making it better for those we serve.

Because of these projects and others, and because we are a mature 6 Sigma hospital, the Joint Commission, as part of its robust process improvement roadmap, approached Saint Francis, along with the Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles, and North Shore Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York to establish the benchmark for the country when it comes to surgical site infections. As you can see, we’re keeping some pretty good company. Thanks to our 6 Sigma culture, OSF Saint Francis is considered among the top healthcare organizations in the country.

While it may not be for every company, the success of 6 Sigma within an organization is driven by leadership; it is crucial to provide visible commitment and leadership. Follow the recipe, focus on strategy and alignment within organization goals, and support your black belts and their teams and you will achieve success. iBi