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Korean J Lab Med. 2009 Apr;29(2):171-7. doi: 10.3343/kjlm.2009.29.2.171.

[Reducing patient waiting time for the outpatient phlebotomy service using six sigma].

[Article in Korean]

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Department of Clinical Pathology, Kyungpook National University School of Medicine, Jung-gu, Daegu, Korea.



One of the challenging issues of the outpatient phlebotomy services at most hospitals is that patients have a long wait. The outpatient phlebotomy team of Kyungpook National University Hospital applied six sigma breakthrough methodologies to reduce the patient waiting time.


The DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control) model was employed to approach the project. Two hundred patients visiting the outpatient phlebotomy section were asked to answer the questionnaires at inception of the study to ascertain root causes. After correction, we surveyed 285 patients for same questionnaires again to follow-up the effects.


A defect was defined as extending patient waiting time so long and at the beginning of the project, the performance level was 2.61 sigma. Using fishbone diagram, all the possible reasons for extending patient waiting time were captured, and among them, 16 causes were proven to be statistically significant. Improvement plans including a new receptionist, automatic specimen transport system, and adding one phlebotomist were put into practice. As a result, the number of patients waited more than 5 min significantly decreased, and the performance level reached 3.0 sigma in December 2007 and finally 3.35 sigma in July 2008.


Applying the six sigma, the performance level of waiting times for blood drawing exceeding five minutes were improved from 2.61 sigma to 3.35 sigma.

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