Utilizing Performance Improvement (LEAN/SixSigma) and Human Centered Design to Improve the Healthcare System from the Patient Perspective

Author: Kathryne Auerback


The healthcare ecosphere is rapidly evolving with hospitals and health systems trying to keep up. Reimbursements are dropping, value-based care is becoming a reality, and consumer (i.e. patient) expectations of services have risen and evolved over the last several years. Given these and other challenges, it is no wonder healthcare leaders are turning to structured problem solving techniques to help solve the most complex challenges facing their organizations such as access, decreasing costs, improving the patient experience, supply chain management, improving inpatient flow, and many others. Two of these frameworks, which are often implemented separately, are Performance Improvement (i.e LEAN or Six Sigma) and Human Centered Design.

Over the last two decades, performance improvement management systems, such as LEAN, have become popular in the hospital setting due to their ability to improve processes and flow. As healthcare organizations continue to improve, internal innovation efforts have recently begun building teams focused on Human Centered Design (HCD) to further solve their problems through a new lens: understanding customer emotional experience, needs, and expectations. While these two frameworks come from different places (LEAN founds its genesis in manufacturing while Human Centered Design found its in product design) and their proponents often think quite differently (i.e. engineers vs. designers and anthropologists), these two systems share many core tenets and should be utilized synergistically to provide the greatest positive impact and ROI to both the hospital system and those it serves.

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