Lean-Six Sigma Medical Laboratories Begin to Innovate in Ways That Add Value to Physicians, Payers, and Patients

With record attendance of 300 Lean-Six Sigma experts, this week’s conference was a high-energy event that provided medical lab professionals and pathologists with case studies of how to improve lab operations and contribute to better patient care

DATELINE: NEW ORLEANS—Yesterday was the conclusion of the 10th Annual Lab Quality Confab, which showcased innovators in clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups. Attendees traveled here from six different countries.

One new trend that emerged from this year’s presentations is that progressive medical labs are beginning to direct their Lean-Six Sigma, and process improvement efforts toward projects designed to add value to client physicians and hospitals. These projects include added-value features of benefit to patients and health insurers.

How Clinical Laboratories Are Succeeding with Lean Projects

This is a shift from prior years. At earlier Lab Quality Confabs, most speakers were describing how their labs were using Lean and quality management methods to improve workflow within their labs, increase the productivity of automation and staff, reduce errors, and cut costs. This was an “inside-the-lab” mindset.

That was not the case here in New Orleans this week. Yes, there were plenty of sessions where workflow redesign, productivity improvement, and cost reduction were discussed. But, at the same time, a significant number of labs doing presentations were describing projects that took the lab team outside of their laboratory to engage with physicians and nurses specifically to help them use clinical laboratory test data in ways that would improve patient care, reduce length-of-stay for hospital patients, and trigger worthwhile reductions of the cost of care. This is an “outside-the-lab” mindset. (more…)