No, it’s not karate that will be the topic of this Black Belt gathering! Early this fall, the world’s largest gathering of Black Belts, Green Belts, and Yellow Belts working in laboratories and hospitals will assemble in Atlanta, Georgia. They will gather to share best practices and innovations in the use of Lean, Six Sigma, and Rapid Process Improvement methods in clinical laboratories, hospitals/health systems, pathology groups, and in vitro diagnostics (IVD) manufacturers.

Speakers involved in Lean Six Sigma programs in laboratories and hospitals from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Sweden will deliver presentations to a crowd expected to swell past 300. All of this global activity is powerful evidence that healthcare is embracing quality management methods, including Lean, Six Sigma, Rapid Process Improvement, and ISO:15180.

In fact, last year, The Dark Report assessed the extent of Lean and Six Sigma programs in laboratories and hospitals/health systems across the United States and concluded that, as a trend, use of quality management systems was now in a phase of general adoption. It was in 2003 that the first three major hospital laboratories in this country boldly experimented with Lean by radically restructuring their high-volume core laboratories. Use of Lean techniques like small batch and single piece work flow allowed DSI Laboratories (Fort Myers, Florida), West Tennessee Healthcare Laboratories (Jackson, Tennessee), and Fairview Health Laboratories (Minneapolis, Minnesota) to achieve remarkable gains. In projects lasted around 12 to 15 weeks, and each lab reported 50% reductions in average lab test turnaround times, along with labor productivity increases exceeding 40%.

In 2003, it was just these three pioneering laboratories. By 2007, several hundred hospital laboratories had active Lean and Six Sigma quality programs. Pathology groups, inspired by what they see happening in clinical laboratories and the hospitals they serve, are also initiating Lean and Six Sigma projects. It took just four years for this trend to gather credibility, acceptance and momentum. 2007 was the year that the Lean Six Sigma trend moved from the early-adopter stage into general acceptance.

Laboratory managers, pathologists, and others wanting to learn more about quality management will find the second annual Lab Quality Confab on Quality Management in Diagnostic Medicine to be a comprehensive resource. Lab Quality Confab will take place on September 24-25, 2008 at the Hilton Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia. More than 50 sessions and topics will be presented, covering the full range of laboratory and pathology operations, ranging from specimen collection and courier logistics to using Lean with automation in the high-volume core laboratory. Poster sessions will take place, and national awards and prizes totaling $6,000 will be awarded. To see topics, speakers, and all the events at Lab Quality Confab, visit
To register for Lab Quality Confab, visit

Lab directors and pathologists wanting to continuously improve their laboratory operations and workflow will find Lab Quality Confab to be a comprehensive, one-stop resource concerning Lean, Six Sigma, Rapid Process Improvement, and ISO:15189. At one time and in one place, the nation’s leading labs and hospitals will share their case studies and exchange innovations. Your laboratory should not pass up this exceptional opportunity to get lots of knowledge, build a network, and meet all the consultants and experts who can help your lab build a top-performing Lean Six Sigma program.

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