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Stepwise Success

What is Efficiency?

Published November 23, 2012 6:00 AM by Scott Warner

Wood heat, the old saying goes, warms you twice if you chop and stack it. According to the EPA, three-fourths of wood stoves are 50% less efficient than newer, EPA certified stoves that use 1/3 less wood for the same heat, reduce creosote buildup, and cut particle pollution by 70%. Better combustion means less carbon and methane emissions, too.

I heated with only wood for sixteen years. I remember the cutting, splitting, stacking, and constant chainsaw maintenance. I remember piles of chips, sticks, and scraps. I remember stacking in rain and snow, running to the woodpile in freezing sub zero weather, and filling the house with smoke every once in a while.

Efficient or not, it was a lot of work. The website Investopedia defines “efficiency” as “A level of performance that describes a process that uses the lowest amount of inputs to create the greatest amount of outputs.” BusinessDictionary defines it as “The comparison of what is actually produced or performed with what can be achieved with the same consumption of resources (money, time, labor, etc.).” And Merriam-Webster says “effective operation as measured by a comparison of production with cost.” Less work, in other words.

In the laboratory, what is the output?

If the output is the highest volume of laboratory tests with the least amount of cost, that is one measurement. It’s easy to track the amount of hands-on time and throughput of a system and compare variable cost to billable tests by payer mix, the kind of feed that makes bean counters fat and happy.

If, on the other hand, our output is the best possible care for the patient, that is harder to measure. It involves elements of cost efficiency, but it’s also about putting the right results in the hands of the provider at the right time. That can be expensive from a productivity standpoint.

Those cold winter days toasting by the woodstove with a cup of hot cocoa after shoveling snow is one reason I heated with wood so many years. It’s all about the output.

NEXT: QA vs. QI

posted by Scott Warner
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About this Blog


    Scott Warner, MLT(ASCP)
    Occupation: Laboratory Manager
    Setting: Critical Access Hospital
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