Performance Improvement Initiatives

Lean and Six Sigma, business improvement methodologies that focuses on reducing cost and improving quality, were originally adopted by the manufacturing industry. Mercy Health hospitals are using Lean/Six Sigma to realize greater effectiveness and efficiency in the health care setting.

St. Elizabeth Youngstown, St. Joseph Warren and St. Elizabeth Boardman, use Lean/Six Sigma in many of the quality improvement programs. The combination of Lean principles that focus on eliminating waste in a process and Six Sigma principles that focus on reducing variation in the process, ensure that patients receive consistent, high quality, cost effective care.

A Team Approach 

Mercy Health began Lean/Six Sigma principles in February 2007, when 30 staff members were trained as Lean facilitators and Six Sigma green belts and black belts. These individuals developed skills in team facilitation, change management and Lean concepts. 

Each facilitator leads a team of front line staff members. The teams map each step in a process. Then they analyze each step to determine if it adds value to the process and is performed in the most efficient manner. From this analysis, process changes are designed, tested and evaluated. Those changes, if found to be successful, are then put into everyday practice.

Some of the initial projects at Mercy Health included improving the patient discharge process, improving the efficiency of room cleaning after a patient is discharged, and providing a consistent method of keeping family members informed while waiting for a loved one in surgery.

Health care differs from manufacturing because of the human factor. There are no assembly lines in health care and every patient is unique, possessing different needs and expectations. Lean/Six Sigma views a process through the eyes of each customer: patients, their families, physicians, health care providers, third party payers and others. A process developed under Lean/Six Sigma is designed to ensure what the customer wants and needs is what the customer consistently experiences.

A Way of Doing Business
Lean/Six Sigma process improvement has become a way of doing business throughout Mercy Health. To date, more than 50 staff members from Mercy Health facilities have been trained as Lean facilitators and Six Sigma green belts and black belts. In addition, multiple areas of the organization have seen improvements in operations and outcomes. Clinical outcomes, as well as patient, staff, and physician satisfaction have also improved.

Mercy Health has been dedicated to improving the health status of the community for almost 100 years. Implementation of Lean/Six Sigma principles is an example of Mercy Health’s commitment to ensuring quality and efficiency for the thousands of patients served each year. It also illustrates how Mercy Health continues to be a positive force in the community for patients and employees.