Value Stream Mapping of the Pap Test Processing Procedure: A Lean Approach to Improve Quality and Efficiency

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We developed a value stream map (VSM) of the Papanicolaou test procedure to identify opportunities to reduce waste and errors, created a new VSM, and implemented a new process emphasizing Lean tools. Preimplementation data revealed the following: (1) processing time (PT) for 1,140 samples averaged 54 hours; (2) 27 accessioning errors were detected on review of 357 random requisitions (7.6%); (3) 5 of the 20,060 tests had labeling errors that had gone undetected in the processing stage. Four were detected later during specimen processing but 1 reached the reporting stage. Postimplementation data were as follows: (1) PT for 1,355 samples averaged 31 hours; (2) 17 accessioning errors were detected on review of 385 random requisitions (4.4%); and (3) no labeling errors were undetected. Our results demonstrate that implementation of Lean methods, such as first-in first-out processes and minimizing batch size by staff actively participating in the improvement process, allows for higher quality, greater patient safety, and improved efficiency.

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