An exploratory analysis for Lean and Six Sigma implementation in hospitals: Together is better?

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Abstract

Background:

Despite the increasing interest for Lean and Six Sigma implementations in hospitals, there has been little empirical evidence that goes beyond descriptive case studies to address the current status and the effectiveness of the implementations.

Purpose:

The aim of this study was to explore existing patterns of Lean and Six Sigma implementation in U.S. hospitals and compare the performance of the different patterns.

Methodology/Approach:

We collected data from 215 U.S. hospitals via a survey that includes measurement items developed from related literature. Using the cross-sectional data, we conducted a cluster analysis, followed by t tests, chi-square tests, and regression analyses for cluster verification.

Results:

The cluster analysis identifies two clusters, a Moderate Six Sigma group and a Lean Six Sigma group. Results show that the Lean Six Sigma group outperforms the Moderate Six Sigma group across many performance dimensions: responsiveness capability, patient safety, and possibly cost saving. In addition, the Lean Six Sigma group tends to be composed of larger, private teaching hospitals located in more urban areas, and they employ more resources for quality improvement.

Conclusion:

Our research contributes to the quality management literature by supporting the possible complementary relationship between Lean and Six Sigma in hospitals.

Practice Implications:

Our study encourages practitioners and managers to pay more attention to Lean implementation. Although Lean seems to be conducted in a limited fashion in many hospitals, it should be expanded and combined with Six Sigma for better results.

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