Workflow Efficiency

Workflow Efficiency: Adopting a ‘Lean’ approach

As workloads increase each year, many laboratories and clinics are looking to Pathology Tracker to help with different process improvement methodologies to optimize their efficiency. One of the methodologies we provide natively is focused on is adopting a ‘lean’ approach.

A ‘Lean’ practice is all about maximizing efficiency, reducing costs, saving time and delivering better patient care. In a nutshell, it’s about finding out what steps in the process add value, what steps do not. Automation, when properly designed, is often an effective way to improve efficiency and reduce waste.

Pathology Tracker sample tracking can help with Lean implementation in several ways. Firstly, a sample tracking system can accurately measure process time, so it can be easy to identify delays, and confirm improvements by checking before and after times while providing visibility into the amount of data your practice generates. From an efficiency approach, the Pathology Tracker RFID technology allows for scanning and uploading the data from dozens of specimens in a single scanning event optimizing staff time and workflow delays.

Also, in a troubleshooting situation, Pathology Tracker is a very powerful tool. For example, if a laboratory technician finds a slide or specimen bottle out of place and needs to identify it. With manual log books, the technician would have to search back several days across the different testing phases – a task that could take hours. With Pathology Tracker technology, the answer is instantaneous.

Misdiagnosis through patient identification errors

No matter how accurate the diagnosis is, if it is not matched to the correct patient, it is worth nothing. Errors can lead to added patient stress around further testing, increased medical costs, delays in treatment and in the worst cases, the wrong treatment – or no treatment at all.

Of course, not all errors are caused by the mislabeling of samples. There can be many reasons for a lab error, from mishandling samples to slide contamination. However, incorrect sample labeling is still a significant contributor to patient misdiagnosis. Patient identification errors in anatomic pathology have been estimated to occur in around four out of every 1000 surgical specimens2. Approximately two in every 1000 medical reports don’t go to the right patient3 and one in every 1000 cases are affected by mislabeling.

When it comes to mislabeling sample tests, an error rate of 0.1 percent may seem relatively small. However, when weighed up against the 7.6 billion sample tests performed in the US alone each year, the numbers surrounding misdiagnosis are uncomfortable at the least.

2Makary MA et al. Surgical specimen identification errors…. Surgery 2007 Apr;141(4):450-5
3Nakhleh RE, et al. Amended reports … Q-probes study of 1,667,547 accessioned cases … Arch Pathol Lab Med. 1998 Apr;122(4):303-9