Purpose - Improving the quality of patient care is a challenge that calls for a multidisciplinary approach, embedding a broad spectrum of knowledge and involving healthcare professionals from diverse backgrounds. The purpose of this paper is to present an innovative approach that implements discrete-event simulation (DES) as a decision-supporting tool in the management of Six Sigma quality improvement projects. Design/methodology/approach - A roadmap is designed to assist quality practitioners and health care professionals in the design and successful implementation of simulation models within the define-measure-analyse-design-verify (DMADV) or define-measure-analyse-improve-control (DMAIC) Six Sigma procedures. Findings - A case regarding the reorganisation of the flow of emergency patients affected by vertigo symptoms was developed in a large town hospital as a preliminary test of the roadmap. The positive feedback from professionals carrying out the project looks promising and encourages further roadmap testing in other clinical settings. Practical implications - The roadmap is a structured procedure that people involved in quality improvement can implement to manage projects based on the analysis and comparison of alternative scenarios. Originality/value - The role of Six Sigma philosophy in improvement of the quality of healthcare services is recognised both by researchers and by quality practitioners; discrete-event simulation models are commonly used to improve the key performance measures of patient care delivery. The two approaches are seldom referenced and implemented together; however, they could be successfully integrated to carry out quality improvement programs. This paper proposes an innovative approach to bridge the gap and enrich the Six Sigma toolbox of quality improvement procedures with DES.
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