Public Health Laboratory: Influenza Process Improvement Kaizen
A team from the MDH PHL embarked on a quest to improve the influenza testing process. The laboratory receives more than 4,500 specimens for influenza testing per year from hospitalized influenza patients. It is critical that specimens received are tested in a timely manner so that changes in influenza activity or detection of a new influenza virus strain can be found immediately. This process not only affects partner epidemiologists who track influenza activity throughout the season but also the Minnesota hospitals that submit specimens from hospitalized influenza patients.
Influenza testing at the PHL defines trends in influenza activity in Minnesota. Data generated by this testing are used to determine whether a new influenza virus strain is circulating or whether it matches the yearly vaccine. It is critical that the influenza testing process maintains the highest quality assurance (QA) standards. Before the improvement process, the roles and responsibilities of everyone on the testing team were not well defined. This led to an inconsistent process in which some areas had too many quality checks and some areas did not have enough. As a result, some specimens were taking too long to test, and some (very few) had the wrong type of test done. Improvements to the process resulted in zero testing errors compared with the previous year and a 13% reduction in the number of specimens that were tested outside of the 7-day turnaround goal.
Lenartz, S. Public Health Quality Improvement Exchange. Public Health Laboratory: Influenza Process Improvement Kaizen. Mon, 10/23/2017 - 15:26. Available at https://www.phqix.org/content/public-health-laboratory-influenza-process-improvement-kaizen. Accessed February 22, 2019.