Implementation of a ‘lean’ cytopathology service: towards routine same-day reporting

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To systematically assess the effects of a Lean management intervention in an academic cytopathology service.


We monitored outcomes including specimen turnaround times during stepwise implementation of a lean cytopathology workflow for gynaecological and non-gynaecological cytology.


The intervention resulted in a major reduction of turnaround times for both gynaecological (3rd quartile 4.1 vs 2.3 working days) and non-gynaecological cytology (3rd quartile 1.9 vs. 1.2 working days). Introduction of fully electronic reporting had additional effect over continuous staining of slides alone. The rate of non-gynaecological specimens reported the same day increased from 4.5% to 56.5% of specimens received before noon.


Lean management principles provide a useful framework for organization of a cytopathology workflow. Stepwise implementation beginning with a simplified gynaecological cytology workflow allowed involved staff to monitor the effects of individual changes and allowed for a smooth transition.

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