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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Basics of Lean and Six Sigma for the Laboratory. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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What are Lean and Six Sigma?

The medical laboratory industry has become more competitive in recent years due to cuts in reimbursement, more restrictive regulatory requirements, increased competition in outreach, and increased cost of labor and materials. This has significantly affected the bottom line of both hospital and reference laboratories. In order to stay competitive, laboratories must be able to meet the needs of their customers at a reasonable cost. This transition has led to more laboratories utilizing Lean and Six Sigma principles to achieve process improvement.
Lean is a quality process that strives to increase efficiency by eliminating activities that are considered waste in order to create greater value.
Six Sigma is a continuous quality improvement process that strives for near error-free operational performance in order to keep down the high costs associated with errors or defects. Six Sigma quality performance means no more than 3.4 defects per million opportunities (DPMO).
Lean and Six Sigma are complementary concepts. Both Lean and Six Sigma focus on process improvement. While Lean focuses on reducing waste, Six Sigma focuses on reducing variation. By eliminating both waste and variation, you will approach a defect-free process.