Raising the Bar with Better Phlebotomy Service

STEP BY STEP, INNOVATIVE CLINICAL LABORATORIES AND PATHOLOGY GROUPS across the country are deliberately raising the level of service they provide to patients and physicians. In the short term, this often delivers competitive advantage—at least until competing laboratories improve their own service to equal that new benchmark.

Raising the bar on service is the theme of the story you will read on pages 10-15. In York, Pennsylvania, the laboratory team at WellSpan Health undertook the ambitious goal of creating the “ideal” patient service center (PSC).

They wanted to transform the operation of their PSCs in two dimensions. One dimension would be the identification of the perfect physical layout for the PSC. The second dimension would be to develop “standard work” that would allow WellSpan phlebotomists to meet and exceed the expectations of their patients.

Once the “ideal” physical layout and workflow was identified, WellSpan began to make over each of its 13 PSCs. It would directly benefit because of vastly shorter patient wait times, improved phlebotomist productivity, and a single way of operating all the PSCs in its laboratory system.

I’ll bet that many of you have already guessed that the methods of Lean, Six Sigma, and process improvement were the primary tools used by WellSpan’s laboratory managers to identify and refine the “ideal” PSC physical layout and standard work. The Lean team achieved a reduction in average patient wait times by as much as 80%. The newly reconfigured patient service centers are meeting the goal of improving patient satisfaction.

By deliberately elevating the service level of its patient service centers, the laboratory at WellSpan reminds us of how the competitive market regularly raises the bar on the level of service that clinical laboratories provide to patients and physicians. It is one reason why progressive laboratory organizations cannot afford to remain with the status quo.

Moreover, I think the accomplishments of WellSpan have a more important message for pathologists and laboratory administrators. Lean and similar performance improvement techniques now make it possible for true innovators to confidently identify substantial opportunities to raise service levels while cutting or eliminating major sources of waste. Collectively, these efforts should strengthen the value proposition of laboratory testing.


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