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April 1992

Improvement in 'Stat' Laboratory Turnaround Time: A Model Continuous Quality Improvement Project

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Radiology (Dr Bluth), Ophthalmology (Mr Lambert), Pathology (Dr Lohmann and Ms Williams), Human Resources (Mr Franklin), Medicine (Ms Bourgeois and Drs Kardinal and Dalovisio), and Quality Assurance (Ms Becker), Ochsner Clinic and Alton Ochsner Medical Foundation, New Orleans, La.

Arch Intern Med. 1992;152(4):837-840. doi:10.1001/archinte.1992.00400160125024

Background.—  Continuous quality improvement is being advocated as the process that, if adopted, would improve the efficiency, productiveness, and quality of medical institutions, thereby helping to solve the health care crisis our country is facing. To determine if these techniques could be effective in a tertiary-care multispecialty group practice, a model project was undertaken. The model project chosen was to determine if we could improve the turnaround time for "stat" laboratory examinations performed in our large outpatient facility.

Methods.—  A 10-member team consisting of everyone involved in the process of laboratory testing was empowered to evaluate the present process and make appropriate changes. With traditional techniques of quality improvement, the process was assessed, data were collected and statistically analyzed, changes were introduced, and data were recollected and analyzed.

Results.—  After intervention, the preanalytic delays were reduced by 76% and the postanalytic delays by 88%. Waiting time for patients was reduced by an average of 62%. By instituting the changes suggested, the institution saved $225 000 on a one-time basis and $40 000 to $50 000 on a recurring basis.

Conclusion.—  Adoption of quality improvement techniques appears to be a desirable management paradigm that should be explored by all medical institutions interested in maximizing the quality of care offered while at the same time minimizing its cost.(Arch Intern Med. 1992;152:837-840)

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