Six Sigma Healthcare: Virtua Health Harnessing the Power of Six Sigma to Improve Patient Care and Reduce Costs in Health Care
Sharing Virtua's Success with the Nation: Susan McGann, RN, Six Sigma Master Black Belt at Virtua Health, featured speaker at National Six Sigma in Health Care Conference
MARLTON, N.J., March 29 /PRNewswire/ -- Six Sigma
: if you haven't heard about it yet, chances are you soon will. Six Sigma, a strategic problem- solving approach to improve business operations, is making its mark in the health sector as a means to improve quality of care while reducing costs. Developed by the Motorola Company in 1987, this highly successful approach to improving processes has since been widely adopted and praised throughout corporations including General Electric, DuPont, Johnson and Johnson and Dow Chemical.
Virtua Health, a New Jersey based non-profit healthcare provider, has seen results since implementing General Electric's Six Sigma Master Black Belt development program in July 2000 -- the industry's first designed specifically for healthcare professionals. (In Six Sigma terminology full-time leaders and teachers of the Six Sigma process are referred to as master black belts.) A single Six Sigma project at Virtua saved the organization more than $1 million a year by increasing insurance reimbursement for surgically implanted devices.
Recently, Virtua Six Sigma Master Black Belt Susan McGann, RN, joined other healthcare leaders from across the country to share Virtua's success at the largest Six Sigma conference to date. The Second Annual National Six Sigma Conference "Successfully Implementing Six Sigma in Healthcare -- Harnessing the Power of Six Sigma to Improve Patient Care and Reduce Costs" was recently held in New Orleans, LA. At the conference, McGann shared her knowledge of and experience with the use of Six Sigma as an approach to improving patient safety in healthcare organizations; hiring, training and compensation for green and black belts; and experiences in capturing data and measuring gains.
McGann and fellow Virtua Master Black Belt Mark VanKooy, MD, have led a comprehensive effort to drive the methodologies of Six Sigma, CAP (Change Acceleration Process) and Work Out across Virtua Health. Together they oversee six full-time project leaders known as Black Belts, and 29 managers and supervisors trained as project leaders called Green Belts. The Six Sigma leaders of all levels work to implement programs that support Virtua's STAR initiative. The focus is an outstanding patient experience while raising the organization's process and outcome metrics from average to excellent. Virtua's goal is to train more than 150 Green Belt managers and supervisors in all healthcare areas.
"With mentoring from GE's Performance Solutions team and leadership from Virtua's master black belts, Six Sigma projects have been strategically aligned with Virtua's objectives, improving areas that range from revenue enhancement to heparin usage," says McGann. "Virtua's Six Sigma and change management initiatives have delivered tangible, measurable results having a positive impact on patient care, employee morale and the organization's bottom line. As a result of the improvement initiatives over the last few years, Virtua Health reports total annualized savings of more than $5 million to date."
Six Sigma supports Virtua's own unique plan for quality -- the STAR initiative. Developed by Virtua President and CEO Richard P. Miller to create an outstanding patient experience, STAR is a program that charges all employees with applying the principles of excellent service, highest quality and safety, caring culture, best people and resource stewardship to the day-to-day operations of the organization. Six Sigma is a tool to get STAR results. It also reflects the commitment Miller and Virtua's Board of Trustees have to getting results that matter to patients.
Virtua is currently starting the seventh wave of Six Sigma projects. Projects have been initiated in areas ranging from the administration of chemotherapy medication to improved billing for home care services.
One project that demonstrates the application and power of Six Sigma in health care is the Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) Length Of Stay project. The challenge Virtua faced was that the length of stay for Medicare CHF patients was 6.5 days while the Medicare benchmark was 4.2 days. The team found a great deal of variation in the later part of the hospital stay and around the discharge process. Important lab and testing results were not available to the physicians in a timely manner. There was also a great deal of variation in patient and family expectations about the length of stay.
The team created standard operating procedures for the nursing team and a patient and family information brochure describing the usual course of care for CHF patients. The team modified the flow of test results to assure timely availability to the physicians for these patients. The efforts resulted in a length of stay reduction to four days and savings of $116,000 per year in staff and room costs. Staff productivity gains were leveraged to reduce the need for agency nursing.
The project was conducted at one of Virtua's four hospitals but the approach has been fully rolled out at the other three facilities standardizing the process across the health system.
For more information on Virtua's Six Sigma program or STAR Initiative, contact 1-888-Virtua-3 (1-888-847-8823).
Virtua Health, the largest health care provider in South Jersey, is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing the highest quality health care to the communities it serves. Virtua Health, with more than 7,500 employees and 1,700 physicians, is comprised of four hospitals including Virtua Memorial Hospital Burlington County, Mt. Holly, and Virtua West Jersey Hospitals in Berlin, Marlton and Voorhees. More than 7,000 babies are born annually at Virtua's hospitals in Mt. Holly and Voorhees where comprehensive neonatal intensive care for premature newborns is provided. A wide range of world-class pediatric specialty care is offered through the Virtua/duPont Children's Health Program, an affiliation with the A.I. duPont Hospital for Children. The Fox Chase Virtua Health Cancer Program provides comprehensive cancer treatment, the latest technology, and access to national and regional cancer treatment and prevention studies. With five strategically located emergency centers, Virtua handles more emergencies -- and more pediatric emergencies -- than any other health system in South Jersey. Virtua also serves the community with comprehensive primary care and emergency services at its outpatient center in Camden; two long-term comprehensive care centers in Berlin and Mt. Holly; two outpatient surgery centers in Mt. Holly and Voorhees; a home-health care agency and the William G. Rohrer Center for HealthFitness in Voorhees. For information about Virtua's services or physicians, call 1-888-Virtua-3 or visit us on the web at www.virtua.org.
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