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Emergency department wait times: program proposal using Lean Six Sigma methodologies
Wait times at the ED has been a rising problem in the United States. This problem is caused by external and internal factors such as healthcare funds, the decrease in the number of ED's in the country, the change in the demographics for the population in the U.S and the poor workflows at the emergency department. Since adding additional resources and relying on external assets will present a financial burden on the healthcare system, healthcare administrators are encouraged to find solutions within their facilities and promote fixing problems at the root instead of putting a Band-Aid on the problem. Based on the analysis of the problem of ED long wait times it was determined that the best alternative is to maximize ED’s internal potentials rather than bringing outside resources. Thus, Hospital administrators are encouraged to use the Lean Six Sigma approach to improve their ED workflows. This approach allows ED’s identify the root causes, implement optimal solutions, and standardize their procedures. The lean Six Sigma methodology calls for eliminating waste of all types from any workflow and ensures error-free processes that are much needed in the emergency medicine field. Avoiding the addition of more financial pressures on hospitals’ ED’s, this approach requires minimal training and implementation cost. Not only ED’s can benefit from utilizing their existing internal resources, but they also benefit from engaging their front-line-employees in the improvement process. This empowers staff members to be part of the change and sustain the improvements they helped shape. Various literatures proved that when different hospitals’ have relied on the Lean principals and/or the Six Sigma approach, they were able to change the way administrators think about the problem. Consequently, they were able to improve the processes at their ED’s. By eliminating non-added value activities throughout the patients’ flow and having defect-free procedures, ED’s are able to reduce patients’ wait times at the front end and throughout the whole process. Thus, ED’s are able boost customers’ satisfaction and increase the quality of care for patients.
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