Lean Six Sigma: A How-To Guide in Overhauling the Office

Hypothetical situation: a private practice is under management and decided to employ a Lean Six Sigma team to clean up shop. Under this direction, current staff and management would work together as a team to increase patient satisfaction by a minimum of 33% while simultaneously decreasing operating expenses within a six month time frame. Eager as it may sound, the business would greatly benefit if this multi-dimensional goal can be met. This could prove challenging, but with proper coaching, the office could accomplish what it set for to do in the allotted time.

During the beginning phases of this endeavor, laying the proper groundwork is key. Delivering and combing through patient surveys, receiving feedback from staff and physicians and developing a clear idea of income versus expenditures will provide a baseline for patient satisfaction and finances within the organization.

Once all of the preliminary information has been gathered, the team should then meet to determine the best ways to make patients happier while cutting costs. Receptionists, technicians, opticians and physicians know what is working and what is not in their departments; not only could they have ideas for reducing spending from dealing with wastage first hand, but they are constantly being told of every pain point that a patient experiences during their exam. A major point of dissatisfaction is generally wait times. Extended wait times heavily influence what the patient thinks about their visit and even the care that they receive from their provider (Bleustein et al., 2014). When patients are made to wait for extended periods of time, the office also needs to pay staff to stay for longer hours while the physician catches up. Reducing wait times could be a task that the practice may want to consider in reducing costs and increasing client satisfaction. It is up to the team to figure out exactly how to change the workflow to help in this and other problem areas within the office.

After the team has decided on the factors within their scope that they would like to change, it is time to take action. If anything in the plan requires a noticeable change to the patient flow, like an improved (or cheaper) electronic medical record system that the staff is still getting used to or a new exam lane layout to better navigate through the visit, let the patients know ahead of time. When potential hiccups are relayed to the patient, they will better prepare themselves for what they need to expect. Informed patients are happier patients. Continuing to survey patients during this transition will also help to see what modifications can be made to the overall plans.

As the six month mark nears, the practice and the employees who work in it should be more accustomed to the new flow of things and the workday should be running smoother than it had during the Lean Six Sigma rollout. As the period concludes, the team should start back at the beginning by sending out surveys, acquiring feedback and running the money coming in/out. In the event that the organization did not meet their goals, retool and try again. If the approval rating increased by 33% and the operating expenses are lower than ever, find ways to make sure this maintains or even improves further. The end of the six month task period does not make for the end of the standards that stemmed from it. Regularly touching base with clients, staff and the physicians in the practice is ultimately the best way to ensure a better patient experience.

Bleustein, C., Jones, R., Rothschild, D., Scheitzer, L., Valaitis, E. & Valen, A. (2014, May 20). Wait times, patient satisfaction scores, and the perception of care. American Journal of Managed Care. Retrieved from

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