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Improving Your Office Testing Process

Planning for Improvements

Table of Contents

Select for the Planning for Improvements Tool. It will help you and your staff to develop a plan to make your office testing process safer.

You can use the tool to design and document changes in your office system for managing lab test ordering, tracking, and followup on results and referrals.

Using the Tool

You should set aside 30 minutes during a staff meeting for this exercise. Your office may need more than one meeting to complete all the steps.

  • Have a discussion with staff about where errors can occur in the testing process.
  • Brainstorm suggestions for changing the process to reduce errors.
  • Write all the suggestions on a large surface (i.e., whiteboard, poster paper) so the entire staff can see them.
  • Try to discuss the suggestions one at a time.
  • Prioritize the suggestions and work to achieve staff consensus about which areas to address.
  • Identify small, clear actions your staff will take, and record each action on the Planning for Improvements Tool. Listing each step in an ordered process will enable you to plan thoroughly.
  • Identify which staff member(s) will perform each action, and designate back-up staff to fill in when primary staff are absent.
  • Maintain the list of suggestions and the completed Planning for Improvements Tool for ongoing review.

Preparing to Implement a Change  Photo depicts five people sitting around a table in a meeting.

  • Select another tool from this toolkit to measure the changes you plan to implement.
  • Collect baseline data and, using that information, specify a goal for reducing errors.
  • Implement the office system changes you have identified.
  • Use the same tool to collect data after you make a change so you can assess any differences your change has made.

Interpreting the Results

At a staff meeting, encourage your staff to discuss the implementation. Present the data from before and after you implemented the change.

  • If your performance improved and you reached your goal:
    • Make the change permanent and write the change(s) into your office procedures and policy.
  • If you improved but expected to do better:
    • Decide on how to further modify the testing process, and revise the Planning for Improvements Tool.
  • If your error rates did not change or got worse:
    • Review the changes that were planned.
    • If planned changes did not occur, consider whether the changes are practical.
      • If practical: Consider trying again; collect additional data.
      • If impractical: Revise the Planning for Improvements Tool.
    • If planned changes did occur:
      • Continue and collect additional data.
      • Or: Develop a new change to test and measure.

Remember, it often takes a few tries to create real, measurable improvement!

Planning to Improve Patient Safety

We know that:

  • Well-designed office systems make errors less likely.
  • Breaking complex processes into parts will help you decide where a change might make a difference. One change can impact many parts of the testing process.
  • Regular staff meetings can improve communication and collaboration and promote shared responsibility for office processes.
  • Even if an improvement involves changes for only a few people, it is important to include everyone in the improvement process to foster a culture of safety in your office.

Planning for Improvements Tool

This tool can help you design changes to improve your office system for managing lab test results and patient followup.
Use other tools found in this toolkit to measure whether your change(s) led to improvements in the testing process within your office.

Figure shows an example of an office testing process flowchart, with the process moving left to right, as follows: Test ordered, test performed inside/outside the office, test results tracked, test results returned to office and clinician, test results reviewed by clinician, test results documented and filed, patient notified of results, patient monitored through follow-up.

List each step needed to
accomplish the task you are
Who performs this step? Who performs this step when
the primary person is absent?
Page last reviewed August 2013
Page originally created August 2013
Internet Citation: Planning for Improvements. Content last reviewed August 2013. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.


The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.


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