Microsoft Word - Mar. 02 Commonwealth


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Microsoft Word - Mar. 02 Commonwealth

  1. 1. Title: Commonwealth Health Corporation, “The Healthcare Pioneer of Six Sigma” Author: Lisa Thomerson, Six Sigma Corporate Champion, Commonwealth Health Corporation Date: March 2002 Published In: ΣXTRAOrdinarySense Commonwealth Health Corporation’s Six Sigma initiative was launched in March 1998 after President and CEO John C. Desmarais listened intently to Jack Welch tout the amazing success General Electric (GE) had experienced by implementing Six Sigma. Welch had proven globally that Six Sigma was the way to improve process design and reduce costs. The encounter of these two executives led to a partnership between GE and CHC, in which GE Master Black Belts trained a diverse group of CHC executives and managers in Six Sigma methodology. This initial Green Belt training designated Commonwealth Health Corporation as the pioneer in healthcare to become a Six Sigma organization. Presently, CHC’s Six Sigma team develops training materials, teaches the Six Sigma methodology, and mentors Green Belts and Black Belts as they progress through the various levels of projects. These projects represent a variety of processes within the organization, both operational and clinical service lines. Projects are selected based on a variety of considerations: benchmarking, peer group data, and/or invaluable suggestions or ideas from employees, patients, and physicians. Although there are many challenges inherent in applying the Six Sigma methodology in a healthcare setting, CHC has seen many positive results in these ongoing Six Sigma projects. All projects must impact at least one of the following Critical-to-Quality factors (CTQs): Customer Satisfaction, Timeliness/Speed/ Convenience, Quality of Care/Service, or Cost. A typical CHC Six Sigma project takes four to seven months to complete. Every project is an intense objective study of a particular process that is driven by data. Neither subjective assertions nor random recommendations for improvements are tolerated in the DMAIC process (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control). Black Belts and Green Belts must prove statistically that a problem exists and the improvements made within the process have been improved using objective data. One of the innumerable strengths of Six Sigma is that all projects are approached the same, utilizing each of the five phases in DMAIC. Six Sigma Strategy CHC’s successful implementation of Six Sigma can be directly attributed to the organization’s steadfast commitment to quality – to continually “raise the bar.” Six Sigma training was mandated for every employee to become adept at its use within CHC as the vehicle to continually improve processes and the delivery of care. It became the focal point of a culture change within the organization. Part of the lasting culture change, Six Sigma’s methodology and its approach to process improvement has facilitated a transformation in organizational communication. With that change, CHC’s senior leaders recognize the importance of their employees and understand their invaluable contribution to improve the “way we work.” At its inception, John C. Desmarais made the commitment that no one would lose their job due to improvements made by Six Sigma projects. Any reduction in CHC’s workforce would be through attrition.
  2. 2. Black Belts are selected as the full-time project leaders who drive process improvements to meet CHC’s strategic organizational goals. Green Belts are Directors and Managers who lead projects part- time and incorporate Six Sigma methodology within their respective departments. These “Belts” consist of a wide array of employees leading projects on project teams. They discuss their projects directly with executive management at each phase (Review) of their projects. Reviews are the forum utilized to improve the flow of information to ensure the Black Belt, Green Belt, project team, and members of executive management are current on project developments. Black Belts and Green Belts, reinforced with management’s unequivocal support to the Six Sigma initiative, critically examine processes within their respective departments. The value of applying Six Sigma’s methodology to solve problems and improve processes is viewed as the mechanism to enhance their everyday work. This can only result in improved customer satisfaction, reduced costs, more efficient processes, and improved quality as CHC produces more and more Green Belts and Black Belts who have completed Six Sigma training. Intensive Six Sigma Training Senior leaders fostered their commitment to Six Sigma by identifying individuals who would become CHC experts in Six Sigma methodology and would provide internal training to employees. These individuals, Master Black Belts, developed healthcare-related training material for classes, a tool kit, and project simulation for learning. Additionally, they provide all levels of training for CHC employees as well as coaching and mentoring for Green Belts and Black Belts. CHC made a remarkable organizational commitment to the success of Six Sigma by training all employees in Six Sigma methodology. By the end of 2001, over 2000 employees had attended at least one full day of Six Sigma training (“Awareness”). This Awareness training offers an introduction to basic concepts of the methodology, and each person who attends this training receives knowledge of the Six Sigma process and becomes a valuable contributor to a project team. The commitment to train every employee stands firm. “Lite” training is the next level of exposure to Six Sigma’s methodology. Department Directors and Clinical Managers identify high-potential employees who will be most involved in projects. These individuals, typically supervisors, attend an intense three-day session that is designed to familiarize the Lite-trainee with the aspects of the methodology. These employees build on the basic knowledge of Six Sigma in order to assist the Green Belt within the many facets of a project. Green Belt training is an action-based learning model where trainees actually complete projects. This training is a 13-day course presented in five phases (D-M-A-I-C) over a six-month period. Each step of the DMAIC process is presented by Master Black Belts in a classroom setting, and the trainee applies these principles to an ongoing project. CHC has 120 Department Directors and Managers trained as Green Belts. Each will be expected to complete one project every nine months. Training Green Belts at this level assures that Six Sigma is intertwined within every department.
  3. 3. Additionally, all vice presidents, members of the senior management team, and CHC’s President and CEO have received Green Belt training and “shadowed” a Green Belt through a Six Sigma project. CHC’s Corporate Champion is responsible for the deployment throughout the organization and ensures necessary resources are obtained when needed improvements are recommended. Additionally, the Champion eliminates any barriers experienced within a Black Belt or Green Belt project. The Champion also communicates the organization’s Six Sigma successes internally and externally as well as manages the strategy’s acceptance. Six Sigma’s Triumph Tangible benefits of process improvements utilizing Six Sigma methodology projects are being experienced throughout the fabric of our organization. The first Green Belt class focused on processes in Radiology, engaging a cross-functional group of employees to enhance the corporate- wide implementation. As a result of these projects, costs per procedure have been significantly reduced. Exam results are distributed to ordering physicians faster, patients receive treatments more timely, and physical workspace has been re-designed to increase employees’ efficiency. Other Green Belt classes have focused on other areas of the organization: Maternal care, specific Pulmonary DRGs, Admissions, Billing processes, Documentation/Charge Entry, Human Resources, Staffing, Managed Care, and Surgery processes. Each project represents a significant opportunity to improve aspects of the services provided by CHC, and Green Belts are beginning to realize the extent to which they can positively impact the way CHC does business. As training objectives are met, processes throughout CHC will continue to improve as the organization continues its journey to become a Six Sigma organization. Along this journey, the American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC) named CHC a Six Sigma “Best Practice Partner”. CHC was among only a few others in the nation to receive this award: American Express, Iomega, DuPont and Raytheon. CHC executives have also had many opportunities to share this approach to quality improvement with several organizations. In March 2001, CHC was profiled at the Association for Quality and Participation’s 23rd annual spring conference in Chicago. In May 2001, CHC hosted healthcare executives from Japan. Additionally, CHC executives have delivered presentations to the American Society for Quality’s Annual Quality Congress; Healthcare Financial Management Association’s conferences; International Quality and Productivity Center’s Six Sigma Conference; International Society for Six Sigma Professionals’ Leadership Conferences; numerous Healthcare Symposiums; and, a Six Sigma Conference hosted by Marcus Evans. Along with numerous other presentations, CHC’s experience with Six Sigma has been featured in various publications including Strategic Finance, Radiology Management, Modern Physician, Managed Healthcare Executive, Hospitals and Health Networks, and Diagnostic Imaging. Since beginning in 1998, CHC invested approximately $900,000 through the course of this implementation. Improvements have resulted in savings well over $3 million in 2001 alone. To date, the cumulative savings have exceeded $7 million.
  4. 4. CHC boasts that all existing employees have received Six Sigma training – from a primer in Orientation to Master Black Belt level training. Toward that end, this includes over 120 trained Green Belts, six Black Belts, three Master Black Belts, a Corporate Champion, three Corporate Sponsors, and a CEO who continuously drives the challenge of becoming a Six Sigma organization. It is evident through continued process improvements that CHC will realize escalated savings, increased morale and customer satisfaction. As the pioneer for Six Sigma in healthcare, CHC’s leadership changed the organization’s approach to problem solving utilizing Six Sigma methodology to deliver absolutely the premium service to customers. The Way We Work at CHC In addition to CHC leadership’s commitment to Six Sigma quality, organizational buy-in is one of the most vital elements of its success. Part of the Champion’s responsibility is to gauge the progression of Six Sigma and determine its effectiveness from a corporate wide perspective. Perhaps the greatest measure of this success is to hear from those closest to the pulse of Six Sigma methodology – CHC’s Six Sigma Green Belts. A few of CHC’s over 120 Green Belts were asked to share their perspective of Six Sigma. This is what they said: “Six Sigma has been a true learning experience for me. I am working on my third Green Belt project currently. I am finding this project particularly interesting since it involves our Corporate Wellness program and the results from the Health Risk Assessments. The tools of Six Sigma are proving very beneficial in analyzing the aggregate data from the assessments with the end result being an even stronger, more effective wellness program for our employees.” Linda Rush, Director of Community Wellness; Green Belt; led project for Health Risk Assessments “I have found Six Sigma methodology very beneficial. At one time during my project, I considered the possibility that there was no reason to proceed to the next phase. I felt there was no way I could improve the process after analyzing my data. We proceeded, and on my 2nd measurement, I had only one defect. I was able to make a positive change for all involved and addressed all CTQs (critical-to-quality).” Gary Sullivan, Director of Security; Green Belt; studied the process of direct admits from EMS “I know that Six Sigma methodology can and is making a difference in our organization. It allows us to continually ask ourselves how we can improve processes as we go about our regular duties. The best part is the ability to hold improved processes in place so we can strive for further improvement in that process and move toward improving other processes. I’m just glad I’ve been able to be such an active part of the Six Sigma initiative because I’ve learned so much. It is so valuable in my new position as we look at process improvement - it’s just such a different way of looking at things.” Lorraine Bormann, Director of Corporate Clinical Facilities; Green Belt; currently leading a project in the process of medication charge audits
  5. 5. “The Six Sigma training has spawned a “new and improved” way of thinking not only for myself but for staff within my department. It has expanded our thought processes to continually question “why” is a task performed in such a way and question “Is this the best way?” As the Six Sigma approach is expanded throughout our department, we desire to realize and improve upon our weaknesses and celebrate our strengths.” Cristi Pruitt, Director of Corporate Accounting; Green Belt; member of the Green Belt class studying process of documenting charges “For me, Six Sigma changes the way that I look at my department, the daily activities of the hospital, and how I do my job. Using the Six Sigma methodologies, each process can be studied and evaluated. Not all projects will reach a “Six” Sigma, but any increase in sigma levels can be considered a success. When a project has an increase in the sigma level or improvement noted, then our patients and the facility will ultimately benefit. Having the tools, such as this methodology, that allow me to look at my processes and improve patient care, makes my job and career much more rewarding.” Melinda Joyce, Director of Pharmacy; Green Belt; currently leading a project studying the crediting process for medication As you can see by these testimonials, Six Sigma has proven to be not only a way of improving processes but also a method for employees to achieve stretch goals. These Green Belts are living proof of CHC’s ability to continually seek greater and greater levels of quality. Lisa Thomerson became the first Six Sigma Corporate Champion at Commonwealth Health Corporation (CHC) in January 2000. Ms Thomerson received CAP & WorkOut training from General Electric Medical Systems following CHC’s kick-off of Six Sigma in March 1998. In early 2000, she was GreenBelt trained by CHC’s Six Sigma training staff of Black Belts and received Champion training through Juran Institute. CHC is the first healthcare organization to partner with General Electric, fully integrating Six Sigma into its culture.