Patient safety with Six Sigma, lean, or theory of constraints

View paper

View presentation

Inpatient and ancillary services

Joseph Quetsch
Service Process Improvement Consultant
Care Process Remodel Associates, LLC

A typical client request of the engineer is to show a tool, often without context or method. This presentation compares and contrasts improvement methods using health care examples so that the listener will be able to select the best engineering approach and tool for the presenting problem.

Understanding between health care clinicians and engineers is facilitated by presenting three improvement methods along the lines of patient safety. The three methods discussed are Six Sigma, lean, and theory of constraints. Patient safety is not a method, but is a dominant paradigm in health care today. Tools without method may harm organizations. Effective organizations will first adopt a proven improvement method. The improvement methods are introduced and described briefly and then compared along dimensions of:

  • Original purpose and foundation
  • Implicit goals of the method
  • Focus of attention and effort
  • Social values of the method
  • Size and types of problems solved: What one might expect to solve with each method vs.what each method will leave unsolved
  • Requirements of the organization to use the method reasonably
  • Typical tools and artifacts.

The handout is a table with columns that includes Six Sigma, lean, theory of constraints, patient safety; and rows for each dimension enumerated above. The presentation will highlight similarities and differences using health care examples. The listener will have a framework useful for selecting best practices or discussing with team members correct uses of tools.