I HOPE BOTH PATHOLOGISTS AND LABORATORY ADMINISTRATORS pay close attention to our coverage of early-adopter hospital laboratories and how they are using “Lean” quality management methods to boost performance of their laboratories. These labs are harvesting productivity gains in the range of 30% to 50%, following a training and implementation schedule requiring as little as 12 weeks.
It’s my belief that Lean—and other quality management systems like it—are about to drive deep and profound changes to the organization and operation of both clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups. In this issue of THE DARK REPORT, we’ve identified the handful of early-adopter laboratories which are just now completing their first major Lean projects. This is timely and useful business intelligence, since it allows our clients and readers to be first to understand and investigate these developments.
Although this first round of Lean projects were targeted at the clinical laboratory, histology is next in the queue. When efforts to apply Lean to the histology laboratory are finished, I would encourage anatomic pathologists to give time and attention to the outcomes. The post-Lean histology laboratories of these early-adopter hospitals will provide a fascinating peek at the direction histology operations will take during the next 36 months.
For one thing, I’ll bet that the first Lean make-overs of histology labs demonstrate that a fair amount of automation and “must-have” technology are not as important as an effective redesign of work processes in the pre-analytical stage. If true, that means our clients and regular readers of THE DARK REPORT will be able to avoid investments in certain technologies because they’ve seen how post-Lean histology laboratories boost quality and productivity without them.
Seven years ago, THE DARK REPORT was first to identify and articulate the reasons why there was a wave of hospital laboratory consolidations— and that it would pass within 24 months. Now, I believe we are first to identify that the introduction of quality management systems into clinical laboratories is underway—and that this will be a long-lasting phenomenon because of Lean’s power to change the operational status quo by as much as 50% in its initial deployment in a laboratory.