Workflow mapping is a tool used to characterize operational processes throughout most industries and to identify non–value-added activities.


To develop a set of workflow mapping tools to compare the sequence and timing of activities, including waiting steps, used by clinical laboratories to process specimens during the preanalytic testing phase.


Laboratories enrolled in this College of American Pathologists Q-Probes study created workflow maps detailing the steps they used to process specimens from the time of sample arrival in the laboratory to the time of sample delivery to chemistry analyzers. Enrollees recorded the sequence and types of steps involved in specimen processing and the time needed to complete each step.


Institution average total specimen processing times (SPTs) and the number of steps required to prepare samples varied widely among institutions. Waiting steps, that is, steps requiring specimens to wait before advancing to the next process step, and specimen centrifugation consumed the greatest amount of processing times for both routine and STAT testing. Routine and STAT testing SPTs were shorter at institutions that used rapid centrifuges to prepare samples. Specimen processes requiring more sample waiting steps and computer entry steps had longer aggregate total process times than those with fewer such steps.


Aggregate specimen processing times may be shortened by reducing the number of steps involving sample waiting and computer entry activities. Rapid centrifugation is likely to reduce overall average institutional SPTs.

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Author notes

The authors have no relevant financial interest in the products or companies described in this article.