Developing a Lean Consciousness for the Clinical Laboratory
This is an overview of the principles of Lean and Six Sigma as a means of streamlining operations and improving productivity. Manufacturing sectors have employed these concepts with much success. The primary goal of a lean initiative is to deliver quality products and services the first time and every time. To accomplish this, all activities that do not add value (i.e., waste) must be eliminated or, if not feasible, reduced. The demands of today's healthcare environment warrant the integration of quality management systems such as these to meet increased workloads, staff shortages, and the demand for rapid turnaround for specimen results. This paper discusses Lean and Six Sigma strategies as well as their application for the clinical laboratory, specifically utilizing tools such as 5S, the Kaizen Blitz, process mapping, and value stream mapping. By implementing these tools to maximize process flow, eliminate waste, and recognize the variations that can hinder the delivery of high-quality services, healthcare professionals can reach their efficiency goals, reduce costs, and provide customer satisfaction.