Speakers at Sixth Annual Lab Quality Confab told attendees that ACOs and integration of clinical care now make it important for medical laboratories to use Lean and QMS to deliver more value while substantially reducing costs
DATELINE: SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS—Here at the 6th annual Lab Quality Confab and Process Improvement Institute (LQC), an enthusiastic crowd of clinical laboratory industry “first movers” gathered to learn how leading medical laboratories, pathology groups, and hospitals are harnessing the power of process improvement to drive gains in quality, customer satisfaction, and financial performance.
Institute of Medicine Report RecommendsContinuous Learning
LQC’s founder and host, The Dark Report‘s (TDR) Editor-in-Chief, Robert Michel, opened the general session on day one with a look at a recent report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM). The report, titled “Best Care at Lower Cost: The Path to Continuously Learning Health Care in America”, has significant implications for healthcare providers. Including clinical laboratories.
The big message from IOM to providers, Michel said, is that it is now time to adopt modern management methods and tools, including a mindset of continuous learning and continuous improvement.
Another important IOM recommendation for providers who want to succeed in today’s “do more with less” environment: “borrow frequently” from industries outside healthcare. The IOM also pointed out that, for several decades, non-healthcare businesses have repeatedly demonstrated that quality methodologies work to improve the quality of goods and services while reducing the cost of these products.
At LabCorp, Five Clinical Labs Have CAP 15189 Accreditation
Also speaking at this same session was Kathy McCloy, who is the Quality Assurance Director at Laboratory Corporation of America (NYSE: LH). She spoke about the value of a quality management system (QMS) like ISO 15189: Medical Laboratory.
Currently, LabCorp has five clinical laboratory facilities which are accredited to CAP 15189. The QMS of 15189 is a powerful and continual motivator, she stated. “The QMS requirements gave us a more balanced approach to quality systems across our labs that is consistent with developing global standards,” McCloy stated.
“Adoption of this QMS created a different mindset for the staffs of these ISO-accredited medical lab facilities. It also drives home the key point that quality is everyone’s responsibility.”
Here are some of the significant benefits of the 15189 QMS that resulted from the CAP 15189 accreditation at the five LabCorp labs:
- Increased communication
- Standardized processes
- Decreased turn-around-time
- Increased cost savings
- Shifted of focus from blame to process
- Enabled development of a solid back-up plan
- Provided tools to determine our focus as a facility
- Helped close the loop.
The process had its challenges, McCloy acknowledged. “Three of the biggest included getting buy-in from management, keeping the focus on continuing improvement, and recognizing that required culture change is a slow process,” she stated.
“Best Practices” Speakers Discussed Quality Management Systems
In fact, over the past two days, more than 50 speakers delivered presentations and most had a similar message: adoption and ongoing use of Lean, Six Sigma, and similar process improvement methods is essential to maintaining their labs’ financial stability and competitive position. With the regular decline in lab funding, these speakers report that their lab’s use of Lean and continuous improvement is a key factor in their ability to deliver a high quality clinical service while driving out unnecessary costs.
What was also notable at this year’s Lab Quality Confab were the large number of first-time attendees and the high level of innovation taking place in their clinical laboratories. This is evidence to pathologists and clinical laboratory managers, this is one more sign that it is increasingly important for every medical laboratory to adopt and regular use the principals of Lean, Six Sigma, and process improvement.
—Pamela Scherer McLeod