Recent bursts of progress in technology have ushered in an era of IT implementation and its integration into all aspects and fields of work including hospital management. That said, the improvements to your laboratory workflow cannot be confined only to the advancement and success of the laboratory, but it should be extended to all other departments for an overall improvement in the hospital organization as a whole. For your management system to be effective to the fullest, you would need to implement IT systems, as they provide efficient metrics which would help you tabulate, understand and ultimately improve the overall efficiency of your service, from maximizing reimbursement realization, patient outcomes and clinical practice. Here are a few strategies for improving lab workflow management.
Breaking Down Barriers
Many institutions are used to following a shortsighted approach to lab workflow. Their perspective is restricted to everything that happens from the moment the samples reach the lab to when the test results are presented to the physician. However, in ideal situation the process should have actually, initiated from the moment the doctor tells the patient that few tests are required. Lab workflow improvement is initiated then with effective patient-care coordination between the prescribing doctor, floor nursing, different phlebotomy teams and the lab staff.
It is vital to eliminate barriers between the lab and other departments in the hospital. These barriers are responsible for preventing continuous and consistent work flow. These obstacles prevent the timely delivery of quality and clinically-relevant information. Also, it is best to create effective lines of communication and align the lab with various departments across the hospital.
Opening channels of communication between the lab and the clinical departments is significant for attaining the standard of patient care coordination that is mandatory for reimbursement and current competitive guidelines. Breaking down silos between the laboratory and the clinical departments in a hospital is merely the stepping stone toward bringing about workflow improvements. It promises multiple benefits such as revenue generation and cost-containment, and the institution becomes far more adept in treating patients.
Standardizing lab practices at par with the practices of the other departments of the hospital helps to cut down errors, cost and time related to managing variability. It is best to employ standardized practices with outside departments while managing specimen deliveries. Work in coordination with outpatient clinics that should be able to use unique barcode labels recognized by lab analyzers. The specimens now arrive analyzer-ready at the labs.
Standardizing lab practices is known to promote faster and easier training. It helps to sustain the process of improvement, provide a model for future improvement activities and reduce strain and injury cases. Implementation of front-end automation leads to massive improvement. All patient orders are uploaded directly from the office’s Electronic Medical Records (EMR) into the Laboratory Information System (LIS) at the click of a few buttons. Also, the implementation of auto validation would help lab techs to concentrate only on samples requiring special attention.
Implementing lab information systems can increase the quality of results by drastically bringing down the human-error margins. Now analyzer functions are under constant scrutiny. Lab techs are at once alerted if any fault is detected anywhere in the testing process. There has been a substantial decrease in erroneous clinical decisions, work duplication and inefficient resource usage. Seamless integration of latest IT solutions can lead to immense growth possibilities.
The first step toward improvement is by investing smartly in software solutions that allow easy access to intuitive reporting format and crucial performance data. It is best to implement a dash boarding system for tracking performance regularly as this helps to identify prospects for process improvement that culminate in cost control.
If you wish to increase your laboratory’s revenue potential, you must try your best to take efficiencies beyond the confines of your lab, and into other departments so as to eventually slash costs, provide a competitive advantage and enable a steady generation of revenue.