Deploying Six Sigma in a health care system as a work in progress.

Jon B. Christianson, Louise H. Warrick, Richard Howard, John Vollum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: An integrated health care system deployed Six Sigma in four clinical projects. The selected projects targeted Medicare profitability, emergency department cycle time reduction, clinic patient preparation, and medication safety. CROSS-PROJECT ANALYSIS: The six-month start-up period yielded several lessons. For example, the selection and sequence for implementing strategic performance improvement (PI) projects, and the decision to use Six Sigma methods, should be guided by an overall system of project portfolio management. IMPLEMENTING SIX SIGMA: Fairview Health Services (FHS) had begun with a partial deployment with the intent of using the experience to inform subsequent full deployment. Yet even before completing analyses of project outcomes, FHS decided to proceed with full deployment. Leaders developed strategic and communication plans, allocated resources, and provided for further training. In 2005, three years after the initial implementation period, Six Sigma implementation has continued. A systemwide method for setting priorities for PI projects is in place, supported by a Web-based system for managing, tracking, monitoring, and communicating results. FINAL REFLECTIONS: Cultural change is a challenge in any environment where staff is rooted in a single PI methodology and is skeptical about the credibility of Six Sigma because of its tie to manufacturing. Health care organizations will need to find better ways to engage physicians, especially community physicians whose patients and clinical practices could be affected by Six Sigma projects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)603-613
Number of pages11
JournalJoint Commission journal on quality and patient safety / Joint Commission Resources
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2005

Bibliographical note

This record is sourced from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine


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