Implementing large scale fast track diagnostics in a comprehensive cancer center, pre- and post-measurement data

Willem H. van Harten, N. Goedbloed, A.H. Boekhout, S. Heintzbergen

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In general, patients with a cancer suspicion visit the hospital multiple times before diagnosis is completed. Using various “operations management” techniques a few fast track diagnostic services were implemented in the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI) in 2006. Growing patient numbers and increasing process complexity, led to diminished service levels. To decrease the amount of patient visits and to extend these services beyond the (obvious) breast cancer services, fast track diagnostics is now implemented for all 18 cancer types that present with a frequency of minimally one per week. The throughput time (first visit to diagnosis conversation) was measured before, and after implementation of fast track diagnostics. The process was redesigned closely involving the multidisciplinary teams. In an eclectic approach elements from lean management, theory of constraints and mathematical analysis were used to organize slots per tumor type for MRI, CT, PET and echography. A post measurement was performed after 3 and 6 months. In pre measurement access time was calculated to be 10 to 15 workdays, mean throughput time was 6.0 workdays. It proved possible to design the process of 18 tumors as a fast track, of which 7 as “one stop shop” (diagnosis completed in one visit). Involvement of clinical- and board leadership, massive communication efforts and commitment of physicians to reschedule their work proved decisive. After 3 and 6 months of implementation, the mean access time was 8.2 and 8.7 workdays respectively and mean throughput time was 3.4 and 3.3 workdays respectively. Throughput- and access time were considerably shortened after implementation of fast track diagnostics for 18 cancer types. The involvement of physicians in reorganizing their work and rapid responding to their needs during the implementation phase were a crucial success factor.
Original languageEnglish
Article number85
JournalBMC health services research
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2018


  • Cancer care facilities
  • Critical pathways
  • Health services
  • Oncology service hospital, Organizational, Organizational management, Operations management
  • Patient centered care
  • Patient logistics, Early cancer detection


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