Abstract on Pathology’s Success with Lean Six Sigma Method Accepted at Top Conference

Gastrointestinal lab work is now processed more quickly and efficiently at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, thanks to the Department of Pathology’s implementation of the Lean Six Sigma methodology.

Lean Six Sigma is a set of tools used to make professional workflow and processes more efficient by eliminating wasteful aspects of operation. After helping to implement a slimmer process for processing gastrointestinal lab work a year ago, Merce Jorda, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pathology and Vice Chair of Anatomic Pathology in the Department of Pathology, will be presenting her abstract titled “Successful Implementation of Six Sigma Methodology in Gastrointestinal Pathology Service” at the United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology’s (USCAP) 104th Annual Meeting in Boston. The USCAP meeting, held March 21 to 27, is the world’s largest gathering of pathology professionals.

“We know that there are a lot of inefficiencies throughout healthcare,” said Jorda. “I thought using the Lean Six Sigma model would be a great way to improve upon processes in our own institution due to the rigor and discipline required.”

As part of the project, the team identified and improved upon many inefficiencies in the previous process, which helped decrease the turnaround time for results, said Jorda, who became interested in quality management when she earned her M.B.A. from UM.

Maria Abreu, M.D., professor of medicine and Chief of the Division of Gastroenterology, said the Lean Six Sigma changes have pleased both physicians and patients.

“Before Dr. Jorda and her team analyzed the workflow, it could take as much as a week to get pathology results in a usable way,” said Abreu, noting that the longer wait for test results made patients and doctors anxious.

“Now it takes much less time, and the results can be found in UChart without having to wait for faxed reports,” said Abreu. “We are all very pleased with the outcome.”

In addition to Jorda, the project was spearheaded by several pathology faculty members and the Office of Process Improvement (OPI). Others who played a significant role in implementing the project were Monica T. Garcia-Buitrago, M.D., associate professor of clinical pathology and Director of Surgical Pathology and Gastrointestinal Pathology; Maritza Polania, Director of Quality in the Department of Pathology; and Brianne Neuburger, from the Office of Process Improvement.

Rick Melnyck, Assistant Vice President for Medical Affairs and Executive Director of Process Improvement, said, “The success of the project, which led to Dr. Jorda’s abstract being accepted at such a very prestigious meeting, is the direct result of the confluence of two things: great collaboration and teamwork between the Department of Pathology and the team in the Office of Process Improvement, and the commitment and support from leadership — including Dr. Richard Cote, Dr. Jorda and Josh Yelen in Pathology and Dr. David Lubarsky, the Chief Medical and Systems Integration Officer.”

Cote, the Joseph R. Coulter Jr. Chair of Pathology, gave the project his full support.

“More efficient delivery of medical services, including better and more effective utilization of our resources, always results in better care for our patients,” said Cote. “This team has shown that process improvement can make a significant difference in helping to get important diagnoses to patients and their physicians more quickly.”

Lean Six Sigma is widely used in the business arena but has been proven effective in other industries, including healthcare. Jorda hopes that her presentation will inspire other healthcare managers, and especially pathologists, to improve practices and make systems more efficient.

“People are interested in knowing how to make processes more efficient,” said Jorda, noting that “more innovation and quality improvement is needed to truly compete in the ever-changing world of healthcare.”

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