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Everything in today's healthcare world is pointing to increased costs and lower quality in healthcare. Efforts are being made by the federal government to promote healthcare technology as a shortcut to quality, but as we have seen in the examples, IT is a tool of quality and not quality itself. Patient families and healthcare professionals will still forget to wash their hands, paper will continue to move around the organization, and we will continue to see the incorrect limbs amputated. Only by applying true quality techniques such as Six Sigma to our processes (patient care and administrative) can we begin to proactively address the quality problems in healthcare.

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, adopting Six Sigma allows the healthcare organization to proactively address process breakdowns before they become life-threatening errors. As you will see in this book, the application of Six Sigma in healthcare is a natural approach to solving many of the problems healthcare faces. The methodology seeks to improve customer satisfaction, reduce cycle times, reduce costs, and improve quality. Six Sigma is different from other efforts in the past since the focus of the improvement is always the patient or other customer. We will talk about why customer satisfaction through reduced variability leads to higher quality and, contrary to popular belief, higher quality is always the low-cost alternative.

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