Six Sigma boosts revenue, reduces outpatient wait time

Results achieved without adding new equipment

Six Sigma proved useful for the Department of Radiology at California’s Stanford University Medical Center, which recently announced that it has been able to substantially boost revenue and reduce outpatient wait time without adding new equipment. Marcia Maihack, director of radiology, says Stanford not only increased projected department gross billings by $8 million, it also increased computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) revenue by more than $2.6 million and reduced CT outpatient appointment wait time from six to eight weeks to one to two days.

Stanford worked with Six Sigma consultants from GE Medical Systems Healthcare Services in Los Angeles.

The results are part of a broader and ambitious three-year digitization and improvement initiative launched in May 2000. Using Six Sigma quality methodology, the goal was to move Stanford’s 594-bed adult hospital, a children’s medical center, and an outpatient facility to an all-digital or filmless imaging environment.

"Stanford prides itself on delivering high-quality patient services through the use of state-of-the-art technology and innovative techniques. Our MRI and CT departments are renowned for innovation, but we are always seeking to improve," Maihack says.

"With GE’s Six Sigma process, we found opportunities to reduce our backlog and increase throughput both in CT and MRI. Since implementing the changes, patients no longer wait weeks for an appointment," she explains.

Gary Glazer, MD, professor and chairman of the department of radiology, says the rigor of Six Sigma and the expertise of the combined Stanford and GE teams enabled Stanford to complete several customized projects that led to impressive results, including faster report turnaround time and better throughput in the MRI, CT, and computed radiography/orthopedics imaging areas.

"In an environment where our scarcest asset is people, due to a shortage of technologists and radiologists, I am delighted we were able to increase productivity and reap satisfaction from delivering better patient care," Glazer says. "Stanford’s goal is to seek additional opportunities for major improvement as the digital transformation of the department is completed this year."