Patient Safety and Healthcare Quality

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Advocate Excellence-A Six-Sigma approach for comparing diagnostic errors in healthcare—where does laboratory medicine stand?

By Tierra White posted 02-06-2019 12:10


Organization (Website) Origin: Annals of Translational Medicine 2018/ Column from Laboratory Medicine

Topic Brief:

In the laboratory, clinical decisions are made every day that affect thousands of lives in both inpatient and outpatient settings. These decisions help clinicians diagnose disease states correctly and directly improve patient care. Thus, the critical role of the laboratory cannot be understated: it should report correct and appropriate results to the best of its ability so that right course of treatment can be decided later on. It is here that error reducing practices can best be implemented, many of which have come out of organizations like International Federation of Clinical Chemistry (IFCC) and European Federation of Clinical Chemistry (EFCC). According to a study, these applied principles have led to a current laboratory diagnostics error rate of approximately 0.3%.

One of the defining practices that have led laboratory medicine to its current state is the Lean Six Sigma method. This error controlling method is broken into five distinct subsets, each of which seek to cut the overall diagnostics error rate: define, measure, analyze, improve, and control. These principles have been used in three laboratory phases: pre-analytical, intra-analytical, and post-analytical. Another element of this practice is that steps that do not add any value to the “system” are eliminated, creating a streamlined way to increase efficiency. Accurately implementing this practice across hospital settings have dramatically brought down error rates, thereby reducing correction costs, frustrations, and improving patient safety.These patient first principles have done miracles in the laboratory setting. The role of national and international organizations such as the IFCC and the EFCC and their continued efforts to reduce laboratory diagnostic errors to help improve patient lives cannot be understated. As health care professionals, it is our duty to provide the best services for our patients, and standardized error reducing practices such as Lean Six Sigma help ensure that central goal is  delivered on a day to day basis.