Clarkson Engineering & Management Students Replicate the Success by Completing Lean Six Sigma Projects with local Healthcare Organizations

A group of nine Engineering & Management students from Clarkson University recently completed their work with local healthcare organizations to increase the efficiency of several procedures within their healthcare facilities.

The group replicated the success of last year’s students by completing their Lean Six Sigma (LSS) Green Belt projects in fourteen weeks as part of their capstone design experience.

This effort was led and mentored by assistant professor Cecilia Martinez who provided students not only the opportunity to genuinely collaborate with local health care organizations such as Canton-Potsdam Hospital, the Community North Country Health Center, and the St. Lawrence Health Initiative but also offered the professional certification in LSS at no cost to students.

By the end of Spring 2018, students completed three projects with the following results:

  • Reduction in the average time and variability for inter-hospital patient transfers. The variability baseline was reduced from 39 to 23 minutes, which is equivalent to a 41% improvement. This gain allowed the hospitals to consistently meet the targeted transfer time of fewer than 30 minutes.
  • Reduction in the average time and variability for transferring emergency department patients to the intensive care unit within the same hospital. Before the project, the average time was 154 minutes and was reduced to 84 minutes, which is equivalent to a 46% improvement.
  • Improvement in the information accuracy of the patient registration process. On average, only 20% of the patients were correctly checked in. After the implementation of pilot solutions, this percentage increased to 98%, which is equivalent to a 79.5% improvement.

Key to the success of this collaborative approach was the identification of meaningful process improvement projects for the industry partner that is aligned with the learning outcomes of the engineering design capstone course. For the industry partner, the collaboration through LSS capstone projects represented a low-cost, low-risk approach to raising awareness and experiencing LSS benefits through accelerated, reinforced, and guided project executions.

Martinez has developed a pedagogical framework that contributes to shifting the focus from the teacher as the primary knowledge provider to students as active learning participants. This approach is based on guided student interventions, mentoring, and constructive feedback. The structure of the guided intervention consisted of four, four-hour workshops scheduled every three or four weeks, weekly mentoring meetings with students, weekly working sessions with hospital staff, and on-site work such as process observations, data collection, and analysis.

While the majority of the LSS university-based programs are typically offered at the graduate level and with limited support for project executions, the framework developed by Professor Martinez provides the infrastructure for solid company staff-student team collaborations on projects executed from inception to implementation. The ultimate goal of this approach is to facilitate the integration and application of theoretical knowledge while promoting the development of professional skills in undergraduate students as demanded by business organizations.

Martinez has recently presented her pedagogical framework for enhancing capstone design experience at the 2018 IISE Engineering Lean Six Sigma Conference. Her conference paper titled “Enhancing Engineering Capstone design Student Experience with Lean Six Sigma” was recognized and awarded as the first runner-up best paper of the conference. Her plan for the upcoming semester is to work with students on improving higher education administrative processes.

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