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Reducing Patient Waiting Time in Outpatient Department Using Lean Six Sigma Methodology

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Abstract

This article addresses the issue of longer patient waiting time in the outpatient department (OPD) of a super specialty hospital attached to a manufacturing company in India. Due to longer waiting times at OPD, employees need to be away from the workplace for a longer duration. This problem was addressed through the Lean Six Sigma (LSS) methodology. The process, starting from registration of a patient to dispensing of medicine, was included in the project. The non-value added steps in the process were identified, and actions were initiated. A cause and effect diagram was prepared for high patient waiting time, and causes were validated with the help of data collected from the process. Statistical tools such as Kruskal–Wallis test, Box – Cox transformation, Control charts, normality test, etc., were used within the LSS methodology not only to identify the causes but also to sustain the improvements. As a result of this project, the average waiting time reduced from 57 min to 24.5 min and the standard deviation was reduced to 9.27 from 31.15 min. This will help the hospital to serve patients better and faster, which, in turn, will lead to a reduction in delay of treatment and a faster recovery of patients. The productivity loss due to absenteeism of employees from the workplace could be reduced. Generally, in an Indian health care scenario, most of the activities were dependent on individual doctors rather than processes. This project has helped the clinicians and the hospital management to identify the weak areas in the process for improvement. Because of the implemented solutions, understanding the history of past treatments and medications of the patients was easy for the doctors. Also, the practical validity of deploying LSS in a healthcare scenario was justified with this study. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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