CDC: Lean Response Ups Lab Surge Capacity During Pandemic

Use of Lean methods enabled 10-fold increase in testing capacity during 2009 flu pandemic

TUESDAY, Jan. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Implementation of Lean methods can improve the surge capacity of a laboratory, according to a study published in the January issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Judith L. Isaac-Renton, M.D., D.P.H., from the Provincial Health Services Authority in Vancouver, Canada, and colleagues described the Lean processes that were implemented to improve the surge capacity of a provincial public health laboratory in British Columbia, Canada, during the 2009 influenza pandemic. A Lean team trained in principles of Lean thinking was formulated, to perform efficiently and optimize the workflow by identifying and eliminating waste. The team used a multidisciplinary response approach with rapid implementation of process changes based on Lean methods.

The investigators developed and implemented a new rapidly scalable and standardized work process. In addition, they implemented changes in staffing. Based on these changes, the laboratory was able to meet the surge in demand. The maximum daily test volume increased from 53 in the 2008 routine influenza season to 573 in the 2009 pandemic.

"We demonstrated how the application of Lean tools can rapidly improve processes required for surge capacity," the authors write. "Computer process modeling that confirmed the Lean Team's work also appears to be a tool that, with further refinements, could be used to predict ways of improving other laboratory processes and to guide further change."

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