BY NOW THE NEWS IS GETTING OUT. Hospital laboratory administrators and pathologists are learning there now exists a management approach that cuts the average turnaround time from order to verified result by as much as 50% in as few as 12 weeks!
If that’s not enough, this management approach will simultaneously reduce trained technical labor in routine, high-volume test areas by up to 50%, even while boosting the quality and integrity of the test results generated. The management approach I speak of is “Lean.” Long used in corporations outside healthcare, it has recently been adopted by an intrepid handful of hospital laboratory management leaders. THE DARK REPORT provided first details of their break-through management results in its last issue. (See TDR, September 8, 2003.)
I would like to put these individuals in the spotlight for a moment. What sets them apart from their peers is their willingness to take a single risk: They were willing to take Lean management methods and introduce them into their laboratory organization by tackling, as a first project, the high-volume core testing portion of their laboratory. Within the lab industry, many laboratory directors and pathologists looking at the same decision in their own lab would characterize it as a “go-for-broke,” high-risk decision that could wreak havoc within the lab—if something went wrong. Until now, lab managers have chosen to follow the “safe” course and keep the status quo.
But not these intrepid lab leaders. I’m proud to acknowledge the following: Paul Gotcher, President, DSI Laboratories, Inc. of Fort Myers, Florida; Rick Panning, President, Laboratory Services Division, Fairview Health Services, Minneapolis, Minnesota; Leo Serrano, Director of Laboratory Services, West Tennessee Healthcare, Jackson, Tennessee, and Ron Brown, Laboratory Administrator, Evergreen Community Hospital, Kirkland, Washington. During the first six months of 2003, these individuals launched a two-fold project. First, to teach their laboratory how to apply the principles of Lean management. Second, to use Lean to restructure how high-volume testing is performed in their laboratories.
That line from Star Trek is an apt description, “to boldly go where no man has before.” Each of these individuals assumed great risk to improve outcomes by factors of 40%, 50%, and more, by their willingness to learn and utilize a management philosophy foreign to the clinical laboratory industry. My congratulations for showing the rest of us the way!