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Effect of Lean method implementation in the histopathology section of an anatomical pathology laboratory


Background: In the USA, the lack of processes standardisation in histopathology laboratories leads to less than optimal quality, errors, inefficiency and increased costs. The effectiveness of large-scale quality improvement initiatives has been evaluated rarely.

Aim: To measure the effect of implementation of a Lean quality improvement process on the efficiency and quality of a histopathology laboratory section.

Methods: A non-concurrent interventional cohort study from 1 January 2003 to 31 December 2006 was performed, and the Lean process was implemented on 1 January 2004. Also compared was the productivity of the Lean histopathology section to a sister histopathology section that did not implement Lean processes. Pre- and post-Lean specimen turnaround time and productivity ratios (work units/full time equivalents) were measured. For 200 Lean interventions, a 5-part Likert scale was used to assess the impact on error, success and complexity.

Results: In the Lean laboratory, the mean monthly productivity ratio increased from 3439 to 4074 work units/full time equivalents (p<0.001) as the mean daily histopathology section specimen turnaround time decreased from 9.7 to 9.0 h (p = 0.01). The Lean histopathology section had a higher productivity ratio compared with a sister histopathology section (1598 work units/full time equivalents, p<0.001) that did not implement Lean processes. The mean impact, success and complexity of interventions were 2.4, 2.7 and 2.5, respectively. The mean number of specific error causes affected by individual interventions was 2.6.

Conclusion: It is concluded that Lean process implementation improved efficiency and quality in the histopathology section.

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