Public Health Laboratory: Influenza Process Improvement Kaizen


Impact Statement: 
The Kaizen event approach was selected to involve the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Public Health Laboratory (PHL) team in reducing the percentage of influenza tests taking longer than 6 days to verify and eliminate testing errors. Within 4 months, errors were eliminated and test time length was decreased from 25% to 17%.

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.

Organization that conducted the QI initiative: 

Lenartz, S. Public Health Quality Improvement Exchange. Public Health Laboratory: Influenza Process Improvement Kaizen. Mon, 10/23/2017 - 15:26. Available at Accessed April 14, 2024.

Submission Status: 
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Submitted by judyjh on

Great project!  We are doing some improvement projects in our lab here in Washington as well.  It seems like a great place to identify and quickly implement improvements.  Your results are very impressive.

0 users have voted.

Judy Hall
Department of Health
Washington State

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