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Patients benefit from shorter wait times in Kitchener hospitals following improvements in pathology processes

From Grand River Hospital and St. Mary's General Hospital
January 25 2012

Patients at Kitchener’s Grand River and St. Mary’s General hospitals are receiving faster diagnosis and treatment, thanks to innovative changes in laboratory services that have improved testing processes and dramatically reduced turnaround time for results.

The lab located at GRH’s KW Site conducts testing on potentially-cancerous tissue samples for patients at both hospitals. These include breast, prostate and lung biopsies. Since the new processes went into effect in July 2011, the lab has reported the following improvements in test completion and sign out of final reports:

Report completion time

Reports completed: before changes

Reports completed: after changes

5 days



10 days or longer




“Waiting for results can be very difficult for patients who’ve undergone testing for a suspicious growth or lesion. Thanks to the hard work of laboratory staff including our technologists, technical assistants, clerical staff as well as area pathologists, we can provide answers to diagnostic testing faster which enables quicker treatment decisions for our patients,” said Dr. Dimitrios Divaris, joint chief of laboratory medicine for both Grand River and St. Mary’s hospitals.

The laboratory underwent a redesign of its services in 2011. The redesign used Lean methodologies that focus on reducing inefficiencies while adding value. The changes included:
  • Standardizing workflow from receiving samples to signing out completed lab reports;
  • Changing the way lab tests are assigned for review by pathologists to ensure the first tests in are reviewed the earliest, and no longer pre-assigning cases to pathologists (in appropriate circumstances); and
  • Adding two positions to ensure a steadier and consistent workflow through vacations, staffing education days and other situations.

“Our focus on continuous improvement doesn’t end here,” said Vince D’Mello, joint administrative director of the laboratory. “Our team has embraced the opportunity to seek new and innovative ways to better serve our patients, physicians, nurses and allied health groups. We’re also eager to use technology to provide stronger data to support further improvements.”

The changes in the laboratory have attracted attention from leaders in other hospitals. Mr. D’Mello provided a presentation on the changes at the Process Improvement Institute’s lab quality confab in San Antonio, Texas last November. Both Mr. D’Mello and Dr. Divaris provided an overview to the Ontario Medical Association’s Laboratory Directors’ Summit in Toronto last month.

Future changes include:
  • Developing an electronic dash board of operational and quality indicators in the lab to better monitor workload and sign-outs; and
  • Improving turnaround times for lung, liver and breast core biopsies with a goal of 90 per cent reporting in four days.

For more information, please contact:
Mark Karjaluoto, Grand River Hospital Director of Communications
(519) 749-4300 extension 2788, pager: (519) 244-3088, mark.karjaluoto@grhosp.on.ca
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