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Improving Diagnostic Imaging With Six Sigma

Diagnostic imaging refers to the use of medical equipment such as X-rays, MRI or magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasound and CT scans. These devices have proved very useful in diagnosing cancer, heart ailments and other fatal diseases. However, the effectiveness of such devices may be reduced due to the increase in the number of patients undergoing such diagnostic tests. Health care centers now have the option of implementing Six Sigma concepts in their delivery processes, to eliminate the common problems associated with increased patient traffic.

Common Problems And Solutions

Six Sigma in health care centers can be utilized for overcoming common problems such as delays in diagnosis and treatment, departmental bottlenecks, increased duration of stays, patient dissatisfaction, referring doctor dissatisfaction, loss of outpatient business and loss of potential revenue. Although it is necessary to have the most advanced diagnostic imaging tools for optimizing performance, health care centers also need to have the proper systems and processes in place, to deliver safe and cost-effective patient care.

The most common approach involves the implementation of Lean Six Sigma tools and techniques, along with process enhancement tools that accelerate change and build acceptance. When Lean Six Sigma tools and techniques are applied in diagnostic imaging, it helps in time optimization, human and equipment resource optimization, improvement of service delivery structure, cost reduction and revenue optimization. All these are necessary for a healthcare organization that is aiming to deliver quality services and increase its revenues at the same time.

Using DMAIC In Improving Diagnostic Imaging

Another common Six Sigma methodology used for improving diagnostic imaging is referred to as the DMAIC methodology. DMAIC represents define, measure, analyze, improve and control. This methodology is designed for use in processes that are already in existence. It has proved very effective in improving the use of existing technologies, such as diagnostic imaging. In the define phase, the most common problems associated with a delivery process are identified and classified. In the next phase, problems that are specific to the healthcare organization are measured to assess their impact on the overall quality of services rendered.

In the 'analyze' phase, related business processes are analyzed for pinpointing the exact cause of the problem. This helps the management in making the necessary changes to the problematic delivery model. In the next phase, alternative solutions are studied and the most appropriate solution is selected. This selection is based on its ability to improve the efficacy of services delivered through the diagnostic imaging devices. In the last phase, effective control systems are put in place to ensure consistency of services. Control systems also help in checking the efficiency of the new service delivery models that were designed during the implementation stages of Six Sigma.

Management needs to concentrate on providing the necessary Six Sigma training to physicians, nurses, diagnostic imaging professionals and even administrators. Six Sigma training needs to be provided only by experienced and skilled professionals like the 'Black Belts' and 'Master Black Belts'.
About The Author Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution's Six Sigma Online ( ) offers online six sigma training and certification classes for lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.
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