Quality center trains ER chief/brigadier general in Lean Six Sigma
The Mid-South Quality Productivity Center welcomed a distinguished participant to its Lean Six Sigma program for Black Belt Certification.
Cassandra Howard, M.D., the chief medical officer for Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital and a brigadier general in the Air National Guard, is among the students in this year’s class studying and applying Lean Six Sigma principles to their workplace. Lean Six Sigma is a statistical managerial concept used in the business world to eliminate waste, cut production costs, speed up production and improve quality and efficiency in a business organization’s process.
“Reducing waste is a big thing,” Howard said. “Anything that is not benefitting the patient is waste. So we are working on things like reducing prolonged wait times and reducing inefficiencies in the operating room.”
Howard currently works with physicians and hospital administrators to ensure that patients are receiving the highest quality health care. “It’s everything from room turnovers to not starting on time to reducing waste in supplies, which adds cost to the procedure,” Howard said. “Patient satisfaction is also a big focus. Patients don’t like to wait. They don’t like to have redundancy. So this class and the methodology touches on everything from start to finish.”
Dr. Donn Fisher, executive director who oversees the Memphis Lean Six Sigma program, said Lean Six Sigma principles help improve how a company defines, measures, analyzes, improves, and controls its operations and financials by providing a model for deeper analysis of problem situations. “It’s a collaborative effort among team members, and it’s all about data and how to make more methodical decisions to improve a system or work process,” Fisher said. “In Dr. Howard’s case, it is especially helpful in healthcare.”
The 17-week course is held Tuesday evenings, 5:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m., at the Whitehaven Center. Participants work closely with their peers on problem solving, project reporting, and accountability principles. Each student is trained through a belt system similar to judo with white belts, yellow belts, green belts, and black belts being the highest. Each belt involves mastering different levels of skill sets and management tools and concepts to help reduce waste. “To be a Black Belt you have to pass a very extensive exam,” Fisher said. “You have to come up with an on-site project, and each week of class is spent building on that project. So Dr. Howard is applying what she learned to the hospital.”
The MSQPC is a partnership between Southwest and the Greater Memphis Chamber that dates back to 1985. The collaboration was one of the nation’s first public-private partnerships devoted to improving the quality and productivity within a major metropolitan area. “We are the only center in the Mid-South area that has an institute like ours,” Fisher said. “We’ve had anywhere from physicians go through it, to attorneys.”
Fisher said earning a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma is like having an MBA degree. Starting salary for a Black Belt is about $156,000 – equivalent to someone with an MBA. “They look at it in the business world as the same as an MBA,” Fisher said. “Some people have a certified Black Belt and they don’t have an MBA. Some have an MBA and a Black Belt. So it is a big deal.” He noted that several of the top fundraisers at St. Jude Children’s Hospital are Black Belts. “The team that oversees the fund raising for St. Jude’s have about eight or nine Black Belts who manage projects inside of St. Jude. They are the greatest fundraising operation in the world next to the American Cancer Society. So they use their Black Belts to help them raise funds quicker and more efficiently.”
Dr. Howard said the Lean Six Sigma program is already paying off in her role at the hospital. She’s currently working on four projects where she is using the methodology to improve start times in the operating room, reduce overtime salary expenditures, reduce hospital stays, cut down on congestion, and other efficiency tactics to reduce waste and costs. “Around every corner there is an opportunity,” Howard said.
Fisher says former and current staff at Southwest have also gone through the program and are applying what they learned to the College. Dr. Verneta Boone, director of the Whitehaven Center, has earned the Yellow Belt certification and is currently working on her Green Belt. Her goal is to improve ways to make the messaging about programs offered at the center more consistent, and to make sure they follow through with prospective students. “People walk in and say ‘What do you all teach?’ ‘What do you all do?’ and ‘How can I get enrolled?’” Boone said. “So I am looking to ensure that we have all been trained and are on the same page with our information.”
Boone added they are also taking steps to improve efficiency in growing enrollment by offering courses at times when students are more likely to take them. “I think Friday, Saturday, and Sundays would be more convenient for students,” Boone said. “We found that the hours from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. – those three hours after church—and before the 6 p.m. (church) service are wide open.”
Fisher said MSQPC is offering a 50% discount for Southwest staff and faculty members who would like to take Lean Six Sigma courses (e.g. Yellow - Green - Black Belt training/certification) through the Memphis Lean Six Sigma Institute (MLSSI).
To sign-up for Lean Six Sigma workshops, go to: http://www.msqpc.com/business-solutions/lean-six-sigma-training/.