How Lean Consultants Use Data to Increase Clinician Participation in Lean Six Sigma Healthcare Programs

lean consultants and healthcare

Healthcare is a data-rich field, and I have seen firsthand that getting your most important clinicians and talented staff on board a lean six sigma healthcare program requires a clear plan to use data. Recently, one New York area hospital needed to decrease their patient length of stay and hired a lean consultant to establish six sigma strategies that would improve related processes. The hospital leadership had been unable to get the majority of clinicians on board, in part because they weren’t using the right data to communicate the value.

Their lean consultant immediately understood the issue. The organization was not presenting the physicians with any concrete data attached to their six sigma strategies. Without informed results, how could they make informed decisions? So the consultant established an enterprise system to collect data on a variety of healthcare processes, and then took the data to the doctors. The plans were immediately approved by the clinicians and a plan was put into place. 6 months later, the hospital had decreased the patient length of stay by almost 25% and had an overall greater clinician buy-in.

How Data Improves Lean Healthcare Six Sigma Buy-In

Engaging clinicians in lean healthcare six sigma requires meeting them at their own level. These types of professionals speak the language of evidence-based work and are looking for important data prior to making decisions. Healthcare leadership quickly learns that calling them into meetings that waste their time or asking them for a buy-in with no evidence to present isn’t very effective. That’s why the best lean programs start with establishing baseline performance data, comparing it to industry benchmarks, and using data to evaluate performance over time.

Improvement Methods Through Data: Prior to asking for buy-in, a successful lean consultant determines what measurable evidence of success in six sigma processes will look like for a specific client. The first step is to focus on improving overall system performance and determining how that can best be demonstrated through data. The following are some possible areas to comb for useful analytics:

  • Performance improvements
  • Reduction in error and/or waste
  • Improved finances

From there, the consultant will recommend starting on improvement processes that don’t require perfection, so if there is a need to adjust, there is little inconvenience to the staff. Quality improvement can be an iterative process, and despite the fact that some clinicians may perfectionists, they will notice the continuous improvements in place. Once the data is collected, a lean healthcare consultant can communicate the successes across the organization, which will only result in a greater buy-in.

Measuring Clinical Quality Improvement: Once it is understood that clinicians respond best to data-driven results, how you obtain that data is also important. Tracking and analysis can be a complicated process, but most healthcare organizations that have a successful lean six sigma program have followed a clear process:

  • The first step is to implement what is known as an EDW (healthcare enterprise data warehouse). Data warehouses are a core component for any evidence-driven strategy and serve as a centralized storage space for all important information.
  • Once the data is collected, a lean consultant will analyze it to identify areas of improvement. They may choose smaller projects at this time if they are looking for greater clinician buy-in.
  • The consultant will develop what is known as an “AIM statement.” This basically delineates measurements for both the process as well as projected outcome, so team members can stay on track.
  • Throughout the process, the data can be used to direct improvement techniques like Value Stream Mapping and Kamishibai boards.
  • The data is lastly used to determine what actions to take to improve overall quality issues and to increase clinician buy-in.

An effective EDW should allow physicians and nurses to develop real-time answers to their questions on clinical quality improvement. They can then use these processes to make decisions that will affect and improve the overall length of stay. Lastly, a lean consultant should have the data to confidently take their improvement plans to the board of approval with a physician-based initiative. Clinician buy-in is about meeting them on their own level. An informed and effective lean consultant will be able to mine the proper data and present it in a manner that physicians can understand and use to make informed decisions.

Strategically incorporating data into the launch and management of a lean six sigma healthcare program provides an important edge. It helps the hospital understand its overall targets and ROI vis-à-vis current performance. It also helps successfully gain buy-in from those in the organization who have the most power to help make the program a success. Today’s data-heavy healthcare environment is a huge advantage and the right lean six sigma partner will have the tools in place to make the most of this opportunity.

Are you ready to see how the right data can help increase critical clinician buy-in to your lean six sigma and other healthcare programs? Contact Incito Consulting today to learn more about how our experienced team of consultants help healthcare leaders solve their most urgent problems.