Applying Lean Sigma solutions to mistake-proof the chemotherapy preparation process

Hanan J. Aboumatar, Laura Winner, Richard Davis, Aisha Peterson, Richard Hill, Susan Frank, Virna Almuete, T. Vivian Leung, Peter Trovitch, Denise Farmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Errors related to high-alert medications, such as chemotherapeutic agents, have resulted in serious adverse events. A fast-paced application of Lean Sigma methodology was used to safeguard the chemotherapy preparation process against errors and increase compliance with United States Pharmacopeia 797 (USP 797) regulations. Workshop Structure and Process: On Days 1 and 2 of a Lean Sigma workshop, frontline staff studied the. chemotherapy preparation process. During Days 2 and 3, interventions were developed and implementation was started. Findings and Interventions: The workshop participants were satisfied with the speed at which improvements were put to place using the structured workshop format. The multiple opportunities for error identified related to the chemotherapy preparation process, workspace layout, distractions, increased movement around ventilated hood areas, and variation in medication processing and labeling procedures. Mistake-proofing interventions were then introduced via workspace redesign, process redesign, and development of standard operating procedures for pharmacy staff. Interventions were easy to implement and sustainable. Reported medication errors reaching patients and requiring monitoring decreased, whereas the number of reported near misses increased, suggesting improvement in identifying errors before reaching the patients. Discussion: Application of Lean Sigma solutions enabled the development of a series of relatively inexpensive and easy to implement mistake-proofing interventions that reduce the likelihood of chemotherapy preparation errors and increase compliance with USP 797 regulations. The findings and interventions are generalizable and can inform mistake-proofing interventions in all types of pharmacies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-86
Number of pages8
JournalJoint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Leadership and Management


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