Study Reveals Effects of Lean Workflow Reorganization on Emergency Department Turnaround Times
In an age of value-focused care, clinical laboratories are tasked with both increasing healthcare quality and lowering costs. This is particularly true in emergency medicine, where wasted steps and inefficient flow of work can result in wasted time. Wasted time can delay diagnosis and impact patient outcomes, especially with conditions such as sepsis.
To study the effects of Lean workflow processes on turnaround time (TAT), researchers applied system engineering tools to reconfigure a clinical laboratory’s sample workflow. In their prospective before-after Lean workflow analysis, they studied adults who underwent laboratory testing while in the emergency department (ED) and quantified the impact of the process improvements on TATs and waste.
The authors discovered that applying principles of Lean in reorganizing the laboratory decreased TATs without adding costs. The biggest impact of the Lean process was made in the area of reflex testing. Reflex testing TAT was reduced by 75% for urine sedimentation testing and 38% for troponin T.
For laboratories looking to focus their continuous improvement efforts, implementing Lean may be a good starting point. Start by analyzing existing processes and workflows. Evaluate steps to identify where tasks flow smoothly, and where there are opportunities to eliminate waste. Then apply Lean principles to define new practices.