Can Lean Six Sigma Principles Improve Clinical Research?

Can Lean Six Sigma Principles Improve Clinical Research?

By Discovery Lean Six Sigma

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Clinical research is a constantly evolving field, and one of the areas that sees the most rapid development and interest from all sides. It makes sense that new methodologies would come up on a regular basis, building on what we’ve learned and improving the current system in certain ways. And among those, adopting lean and Six Sigma principles can have the most dramatic, pronounced results. If you’re still not using lean practices in your facility’s research, there is a lot of room for improvement in the way you’re doing things.

Minimizing Errors by Working with Reliable Data

A core principle of Lean Six Sigma in general is to ensure that data collection practices are sensible and complete. This allows you to collect enough information about the current state of your operations and make informed decisions moving forward. It’s far too often that we see laboratories making mistakes that could be easily avoided, usually boiling down to defining a more accurate data collection system.

Not only that, but it’s also important to ensure that this data is organized and stored in an appropriate manner that allows you to easily search through it. This is another common issue encountered by modern laboratories, and there is a very real problem related to the organization of collected data sets. When everything is stored in a way that makes sense, your employees will have to spend far less time searching for each piece of information they need in their research. On the other hand, this will minimize the rate of errors in their work as well.

Sustainable Improvements That Work in the Long Run

Another common problem which you’ll want to eliminate as early as possible is the issue of constantly changing working practices in order to implement some new and improved system. In many cases, this improvement is only momentary and may not impact the long-term operations of the laboratory in any noticeable way. Even worse, it could actually have a negative impact on your work after some time if it turns out that it clashes with other practices.

One of the core ideas of lean work is to ensure that any improvements are sustainable in the long run and create actual value in the organization. Continuous improvement is something that takes some time to properly grasp, but once you realize how to apply it to your work more effectively, you’re going to see amazing results in the long run.

The alternative may seem attractive at first, but it’s far from ideal in the long run, as it creates various problems that can be difficult to resolve once they’ve piled up. You need some rigidly defined system for changing your workflow and introducing new systems, and if you do it on a case-by-case basis, you’re going to run into trouble sooner or later. And as we’re seeing all around us, it’s more likely to happen sooner.

Reducing Result Delivery Times

Last but definitely not least, lean can significantly help you reduce the time it takes to complete a part of your research. Shortening the delivery periods can improve the overall workflow of the laboratory quite a lot, as you’d often be doing research in stages, each relying on the output of the previous one. In these cases, the laboratory’s overall performance is going to see a sharp increase if you do everything right.

Of course, make sure you consult your lab workers for this, as it may turn out that you’re planning to push them beyond their reasonable limits. After all, in some cases there is a good reason for things to work more slowly than normal, and you need a good low-level overview of the situation to determine when that’s the case.


Implementing lean practices in a clinical laboratory can result in significant improvements of the laboratory’s overall performance, but it has to be done in a controlled manner that doesn’t interfere with established workflows and practices. Getting regular feedback from the different people working in the laboratory is important, and you’ll need to make sure that you’re coordinating those improvements with the whole facility from top to bottom.

The post Can Lean Six Sigma Principles Improve Clinical Research? appeared first on Shmula.

By: Shmula Contributor
Posted: December 21, 2017, 1:00 pm

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