Producing Faster Test Results

Capture1As the only entity of its kind in the state, the Utah Public Health Laboratory performs tests that eventually reach every Utah citizen. For example, the laboratory provides tests to determine if infants suffer from a debilitating disease, if the water we drink is safe, and help law enforcement determine if someone was intoxicated during a traffic incident.

By applying the tools associated with the SUCCESS Framework, the laboratory is achieving significant performance improvements. For example, the metals testing section for Chemical and Environmental Services had a backlog of 506 samples and was averaging 35 completed samples per week prior to adoption of the SUCCESS Framework. After analyzing “blue light” (the time staff spend on the most critical work activities), lab employees found increased capacity by implementing a team work schedule based on business need. No additional costs were incurred by these adjustments.

In the first four weeks after increasing blue light activity, the average test completion rate soared to 135 samples per week. During the same time period, backlog was reduced to 193. By December, the average completed tests per week were 105 which is a 197% improvement over a three month period.

Other positive results include increased instrument run-time without additional employee time and a reduction in rush sample preliminary reports from at least 72 hours to a range of 24-48 hours.

The SUCCESS Framework tools are being applied to other areas of the laboratory to improve operations and performance. For example, the Forensic Toxicology team members are veterans at using Lean / Six Sigma to improve performance. However, by applying the QT/OE measure, they have been able to capture the broader story of their performance–with the three most recent calculations showing a 17% gain in QT/OE.

These accomplishments are a tribute to Dr. Robyn Atkinson-Dunn and her leadership team. Utah’s State Public Health Laboratory believes these experiences will lead to even greater things to come.