Background: Assessing turnaround times can help to analyse workflows in hospital information systems. This paper presents a systematic review of literature concerning different turnaround time definitions. Our objectives were to collect relevant literature with respect to this kind of process times in hospitals and their respective domains. We then analysed the existing definitions and summarised them in an appropriate format.
Methods: Our search strategy was based on Pubmed queries and manual reviews of the bibliographies of retrieved articles. Studies were included if precise definitions of turnaround times were available. A generic timeline was designed through a consensus process to provide an overview of these definitions.
Results: More than 1000 articles were analysed and resulted in 122 papers. Of those, 162 turnaround time definitions in different clinical domains were identified. Starting and end points vary between these domains. To illustrate those turnaround time definitions, a generic timeline was constructed using preferred terms derived from the identified definitions. The consensus process resulted in the following 15 terms: admission, order, biopsy/examination, receipt of specimen in laboratory, procedure completion, interpretation, dictation, transcription, verification, report available, delivery, physician views report, treatment, discharge and discharge letter sent. Based on this analysis, several standard terms for turnaround time definitions are proposed.
Conclusion: Using turnaround times to benchmark clinical workflows is still difficult, because even within the same clinical domain many different definitions exist. Mapping of turnaround time definitions to a generic timeline is feasible.