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Laboratory Services: The Foundation for High-Quality Care

By Jennifer Thew RN  
   January 11, 2018

Healthcare executives should consider how laboratory services can be integrated into their strategic plans in order to reach organizational goals.

The strength and stability of a building comes from its foundation so it seems fitting that a longstanding healthcare industry tradition has been to locate the laboratory services department in a facility’s basement.

“When people make reference to the fact that the laboratory is in the basement, my usual response is, that from my perspective, the laboratory is the foundation of the organization,” says Alvaro Candel, MD, chairman/medical director, department of pathology and laboratory medicine at Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare in Elmhurst, Illinois. “Although admittedly a biased opinion, my point is that the laboratory is in a somewhat unique position in that it interfaces with almost every aspect of the healthcare system and, therefore, is an integral piece of the strategic plan.”

And, in an era of payment reform, changing care models, mergers and acquisitions, and increased consumerism, the pervasiveness of laboratory services gives it the potential to help healthcare organizations remain financially viable while delivering high-quality care across the continuum.

“Lab is an ambassador for the health system, because if you have outreach, if you are operating as a network, chances are your lab is already interacting with the region, the providers, and the customers before the health system gets there,” says James Crawford, MD, senior vice president and executive director, laboratory services at Northwell Health in Lake Success, New York. “Start with your phlebotomists, but also your logistics and client service support of physician practices and, yes, the expertise of the pathologists and the clinical scientists who are supporting those diagnostics.”

To assist in this integration of laboratory services across the continuum, technology solutions are evolving.

“This is why Sunquest is transforming from an LIS to providing end-to-end diagnostic informatics, integrating siloed products into a single solution. Change won’t happen until we can apply computation to this problem. We’re at an inflection point…we have to do something different. I’m optimistic we can turn a corner – and diagnostics is front and center. The lab and diagnostics are in the middle of patient care day in and day out,” says Manish Muzumdar, senior vice president of product development at Sunquest in San Francisco, California.

Forward thinking healthcare organizations are extending laboratory services beyond traditional sites.

“Being a smaller hospital, we had to figure out how we can have different collaborative relationships.  In January, Catholic Medical Center became part of a system with two critical access hospitals. We joined together allowing us to forge a collaborative relationship with the smaller hospitals and be able to provide lab services and create an economy of scale,” says Tina Legere, senior vice president, operations at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, New Hampshire. “In rural New Hampshire, we have a hub and spoke model and because of our cardiac service line we provide a lot of satellite clinical services at the critical access hospitals.  Lab is one of those outreaches that we’re doing. We’ve also done a lot of work with the nursing homes and providing the lab services. From a business development piece, we have really been ahead of the curve.”

Articulating how laboratory services can contribute to an organization’s success is an essential function of those in laboratory services leadership. 

“Our organization has a plan and it’s in years—in the next year, in the next three years, in the next five years. What I have done is to take the hospital strategic plan, the hospital vision and very carefully match our [laboratory] strategic plan to the strategic plan of the organization.  So, for example, we want to take our health plan to market. What does that mean?  What does that mean for the lab?  And then we develop our strategic plan,” says Marci Dop, system vice president of laboratory and support services at OhioHealth in Columbus, Ohio. 

View the complete HealthLeaders Media Roundtable report: The Strategic Impact of Laboratory Services in a Value-Based Environment

Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.


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