Deep, wide and all-encompassing—the new realities of ongoing anatomic pathology (AP) laboratory reimbursement cuts figured prominently in the topics discussed at the recent Executive War College.
At the annual event focusing on business, clinical, and administrative resources for laboratory and pathology management leaders, concerns about today's financial realities were a major topic. Another theme emerged at the event: one of the ways labs across the country are addressing financial pressure is through Lean Process Improvement.
"In essence, Lean Process Improvement is based on a conviction that labs can always find new operational efficiencies in their everyday workflows to boost productivity and financial health, while at the same time enhancing patient care," says Wally Soufi, CEO NovoPath, Princeton, NJ, an AP IT solutions vendor offering a specialized software module to support Lean Process Improvement.
Soufi notes that each lab area, such as accessioning, grossing, and transcribing, is made up of a broad range of individual tasks that comprise its overall workflow. Lean process assesses and analyzes information about every step of these tasks as they are performed by individual lab workers at their assigned workstations. Lean process analysis will identify workflow bottlenecks and inefficiencies. It may also find that some workers are implementing extra or redundant steps or are slow at accomplishing certain tasks relative to their peers and need improvement.
As part of the process, workload metrics are computed for each individual staff member. Based on these metrics, Lean process sets benchmarks for productivity that will maintain all lab safety and performance standards.
"Lean Processing cuts waste, sets realistic workflow standards and measures the success of lab staff in meeting these goals," Soufi says.
NovoPath's Lean Process Improvement Module is fully integrated into its NovoPath AP Lab management and communications solution. It automatically implements Lean process principles in day-to-day operations. For example, the module tracks lab activities for each functional area and determines metrics essential for patient safety, quality control, staffing, and overall lab efficiency, helping labs identify specific areas that need improvement. The solution also enables labs to monitor the impact of their workflow changes as they attempt to meet their operational goals.
"When evaluating a Lean Process solution, the ability to customize and adapt it to support the specific tasks a lab performs in every functional area is essential,"Soufi says. "A cookie cutter solution simply will not work. The best solutions will balance efficiency goals with measures that assure patient safety and quality lab results."