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Six Sigma

Six Sigma, like Lean, is used to improve the quality and efficiency of operational processes. During the past decade, these process improvement techniques increasingly have been applied outside of the manufacturing sector, for example, in healthcare.

While Lean focuses on identifying ways to streamline processes and reduce waste, Six Sigma aims predominantly to make processes, such as those used in clinical laboratories and pathology group labs, more uniform and precise through the application of statistical methods.

Along with Lean, this process improvement technique has become popular with labs as a way to streamline laboratory processes, reduce costs, increase productivity, and improve quality in a time when labs are increasingly pressured by downward price trends for lab tests. At the same time, labs are able to increase value offered to “customers,” that is, patients.

The principles of a Six Sigma-based system were originally developed by Bill Smith of Motorola in 1986 as a way of eliminating defects in manufacturing, where a defect is understood to be a product or process that fails to meet customers’ expectations and requirements. The name refers to a quality level defined as the near-perfect defect rate of 3.4 defects per million opportunities. As a process improvement strategy, it gained much attention through its association with General Electric and its former CEO Jack Welsh.

Six Sigma also involves the training and certification of designated process specialists (called black belts, green belts, or other similar titles) within organizations to help guide Six Sigma improvement efforts. Other distinctive features include the expectation that process quality improvements be translated into financial metrics to assess value and the active involvement of top management in all initiatives.

Six Sigma is often combined with Lean management techniques to produce a methodology that relies on a collaborative team effort to improve performance by systematically removing waste (Lean) as well as defects, overproduction, waiting, non-utilized talent, transportation, inventory, motion and extra-processing (Six Sigma).

Eight Macro Trends for Clinical Labs in 2023

CEO SUMMARY: Laboratory administrators and pathologists will want to carefully study eight important trends that will guide their business strategies in 2023. Many of these macro trends center on financial and operational difficulties and ways to steer around these obstacles. Anothe…

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CEO SUMMARY: For the past decade, it’s been recognized that the supply of skilled laboratory professionals is inadequate to meet the needs of the nation’s clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups. Leadership at American Medical Technologists recommends steps that labs…

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TODAY’S HEALTHCARE SYSTEM IS MARKED by uncertainty and unprecedented pressures. Every clinical laboratory and pathology group faces the triple whammy of shrinking budgets, staff shortages, and a rate of inflation that drives up the cost of supplies and salaries. …

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CEO SUMMARY: It’s a time when clinical labs are under extreme pressure to cut costs, even as they deal with understaffing. One proven approach to reducing expenses while preserving quality is to apply Lean methods in conjunction with Six Sigma tools. It is often true that successf…

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CEO SUMMARY: Responding to requests from numerous lab managers, The Dark Report is organizing a one-and-a-half-day program that will come to your city. Workshop leaders are from labs su…

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CEO SUMMARY: With the hospital adding specialist physicians and at the same time enjoying sustained growth in outreach test volume, the lab was hit with the dual need to expand the in-house test menu and reconfigure workflow to handle predictions of ongoing growth in outreach testin…

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CEO SUMMARY: To understand any development in the marketplace, it is best to follow the money. That Roche, Quest Diagnostics, and LabCorp spent money either to purchase or partner with a lab analytics company in the past 36 months indicates that these enterprises believe acquiring or …

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FOR THE PAST SEVERAL YEARS, and particularly since Congress passed the Patient Access to Medicare Act in 2014, clinical labs have focused on controlling costs, as they should. After all, PAMA calls …

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Labs Begin Applying Lean to Cut Costs, Add Value

CEO SUMMARY: In more than 40 presentations by 55 speakers, two big themes dominated the 11th annual Lab Quality Confab in New Orleans last week. One theme is the urgent need to cut clinical laboratory costs. The second theme is the need for both clinical labs and anatomic pathology groups…

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August 7, 2017 Intelligence: Late Breaking Lab News

PAML of Spokane, Washington, was the subject of an unusual public disclosure recently made by Laboratory Corporation of America. The lab company sent a statement to the Spokane Journal of Business stating its plans to make PAML “its primary lab site in the western…

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