Six Sigma at Academic Medical Hospital (A)
For 10 years, Academic Medical Hospital's chief of staff had struggled to decrease the amount of time patients spend waiting in the emergency department. Moving patients through the department is a complex task and therefore long wait times had always been excused. But now, the hospital has adopted Six Sigma, a highly disciplined and data-intensive method for streamlining the emergency-care activities and reducing patient wait time. This case traces the design and implementation of a Black Belt improvement project. The various phases of Six Sigma methodology (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) are described in the setting of the patient wait-time study and several statistical tools are demonstrated with operating- performance data. The case ends with the Black Belt being concerned about the statistical significance of the results of the recently completed pilot study as well as deep-rooted implementation resistance from several key stakeholders in the hospital and in the medical school. Having led her team through the various phases of Six Sigma and having completed the pilot study, the Black Belt wonders how to focus the next team meeting. The case can be used to teach Six Sigma methodology, to critique effectiveness of application of the phases and tools, and to deal with the statistical significance issues and the implementation concerns. See also the B and C cases.