Is your laboratory a “world class” performer? You will soon have an objective and universal benchmark to gauge your laboratory’s performance against peers and competitors.  Dark Daily predicts it will be a measure of laboratory performance defined in Six Sigma terms.

This insight emerged during The Dark Report’s participation at the DIAmante Laboratory Conference in Cartagena, Colombia earlier this month. DIAmante featured speakers from Spain, the United States, and Colombia discussing ways that laboratories could add value to clinicians and the health systems they serve. The meeting was produced by Roche Diagnostics and Sysmex America and was attended by laboratory administrators from 13 nations in Central America and the Caribbean.

Many of you understand the key principle of a Six Sigma quality management system. It is to re-engineer and improve work processes that generate a statistically-predictable level of outcomes. The outcomes are measured by looking at the number of errors or non-conforming events per one million events. Thus, a work process producing 66,807 defects per million is performing at three sigma. A work process producing just 3.4 defects per million is performing at six sigma.

When Dr. Alba Garzón of Laboratorio Medico Echavarria in Bogota, Colombia presented the successes of Six Sigma projects in her laboratory, she made a profound statement. “Six Sigma measurements now give me an objective way to measure the performance of my clinical laboratory against any other clinical laboratory in the world,” she told the audience. “If the rate of bar code errors at reception (accessioning) is 5.5 sigma in my laboratory, for example, that gives me a common way to evaluate that performance against any other clinical laboratory which also measures the rate of bar code errors at reception in parts per million.”

Dr. Garzón’s insight shows that the measurement of laboratory work processes in terms of defects per million, using a sigma scale, is already on its way to becoming a method for laboratories to compare their operational performance and quality with that of other laboratories. This is a development of major significance. Use of sigma measurement systems to evaluate work process and quality outcomes in the laboratory is likely to supplant some existing methodologies. As laboratory directors and pathologists know, many peer comparison programs fall short of creating the common performance benchmarks that laboratory leaders sought as a way to judge their laboratory’s quality and productivity against peer laboratories.

Finally, Dark Daily offers another insight. The fact that a clinical laboratory in Bogota, Colombia is ready to use errors per million to evaluate its performance against other laboratories in the world shows how laboratory operations are likely to converge across the globe. This convergence will be the subject of an intelligence briefing in the December 18 issue of The Dark Report.

Acknowledgements: Several individuals with foresight and hard work collaborated to make the DIAmante meeting in Cartagena, Colombia a success.  Recognition should go to Frank Mrongowius, Roche Diagnostic’s General Manager for Central America and the Caribbean, Patricia Monzo, Product Manager for the same region, and Ricardo del Valle of the Marketing Group.

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