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J Mol Diagn. 2009 Sep;11(5):390-9. doi: 10.2353/jmoldx.2009.090002. Epub 2009 Aug 6.

The Henry Ford production system: LEAN process redesign improves service in the molecular diagnostic laboratory: a paper from the 2008 William Beaumont hospital symposium on molecular pathology.

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Henry Ford Hospital, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, 2799 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit, MI 48202, USA.


Accurate and timely molecular test results play an important role in patient management; consequently, there is a customer expectation of short testing turnaround times. Baseline data analysis revealed that the greatest challenge to timely result generation occurred in the preanalytic phase of specimen collection and transport. Here, we describe our efforts to improve molecular testing turnaround times by focusing primarily on redesign of preanalytic processes using the principles of LEAN production. Our goal was to complete greater than 90% of the molecular tests in less than 3 days. The project required cooperation from different laboratory disciplines as well as individuals outside of the laboratory. The redesigned processes involved defining and standardizing the protocols and approaching blood and tissue specimens as analytes for molecular testing. The LEAN process resulted in fewer steps, approaching the ideal of a one-piece flow for specimens through collection/retrieval, transport, and different aspects of the testing process. The outcome of introducing the LEAN process has been a 44% reduction in molecular test turnaround time for tissue specimens, from an average of 2.7 to 1.5 days. In addition, extending LEAN work principles to the clinician suppliers has resulted in a markedly increased number of properly collected and shipped blood specimens (from 50 to 87%). These continuous quality improvements were accomplished by empowered workers in a blame-free environment and are now being sustained with minimal management involvement.

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