Lean in the Laboratory and Radiology: A Patient Throughput Imperative

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Lean Six Sigma

Ryan Gruver
Performance Improvement Coordinator
MedStar Health

Lean is often thought of as a fundamental starting point for improvement, but deciding which process to initially apply Lean to can be difficult. Applying Lean in these areas will showcase the fundamental value that Lean has on improving throughput, by providing straight-forward examples of how Lean can transform culture.

Lean in the Radiology and the Laboratory provides and environment where a hospital is most likely to succeed. Both processes closely resemble manufacturing processes more so than that of other healthcare processes. Therefore the probability of getting your first win with Lean will be much higher in these departments. Furthermore, success in these departments will promote the Lean methodology and allow it to become the trusted way to improve processes and transform culture.

In our organization, Lean has revealed endless opportunities for improvement in the Lab, highlighted by morning draw completion by 8am, increased opportunity for timely discharge, the elimination of batch processing in phlebotomy, and 80 percent of lab volumes performed in a core processing area that was re-organized to maximize throughput.

In Radiology, Lean has revealed numerous throughput enhancement opportunities, highlighted by the need to perform all patient prep association with executing a CAT Scan prior to the patient being place on the scanner in order to maximize the CAT Scan throughput.

Leaning out the Laboratory and Radiology departments before improving the acute care process is crucial, otherwise the hospital will forever be inhibit by the limitations of such ancillary support processes.