The non-acute side of healthcare is becoming increasingly critical – to the health of your patients, and to the performance and profitability of your health system. As more patients visit clinics, physician offices, urgent care and post-acute care facilities, procedures such as laboratory tests are being conducted more and more frequently outside of the hospital at the point of care. However, when various facilities within your health system perform laboratory testing, you may find that your lab program is not working as well as it could.
That’s where standardization comes in.
Improving patient outcomes through lab testing
With point of care testing, clinicians receive lab results faster and patients are diagnosed and treated in a more timely manner, often at the point of the patient encounter. This can have a positive impact on patient outcomes, leading to fewer admissions, 11% fewer hospitalizations and 36% fewer inpatient hospital days.1
However, when various facilities in your health system perform laboratory testing, you may find that your lab program is not working as well as it could be. When it comes to lab testing, standardization in processes and product is critical to appropriately addressing your patient population health, chronic disease management and your business’s workflow. Take a moment to assess your lab processes and identify potential gaps that can lead to lost revenue, lowered patient satisfaction and increased staff turnover. Standardizing all your facilities to the most efficient and cost-effective methods and processes can help pay big dividends.
Although processes at your hospital lab may be running like clockwork, other facilities within your health system may all be following different processes. Help your entire system run more smoothly by standardizing processes and products, and by upgrading and converting technology where possible.
Standardizing all facilities to the most appropriate products can not only help manage patients with chronic diseases in the most effective way, but can also help save money and increase reimbursements. With value-based care initiatives and with the lab reimbursement rate changes implemented under the Protecting Access to Medicare Act (PAMA) regulations mandated by CMS, using lab tests at the point of care can help meet quality indicators as well as enhance revenue.
Providing patients with timely, accurate lab results means patients get immediate diagnoses and you can begin treatment plans more quickly, which helps improve patient compliance, patient engagement and satisfaction. Additionally, capturing test results electronically makes them available to any providers throughout your system that may interact with the patient.
Lab processes that are efficient and easy to follow can increase staff satisfaction and help lower turnover, allowing you to build your lab team’s expertise and quality over time.
Standardizing Your Lab: Centralized vs. Decentralized Labs
Health systems usually standardize their lab operations in one of two ways: centralized or decentralized. Your system’s structure can help inform which is the better option for you.
You can implement a centralized lab, where the majority of testing is done in one location and specimens are couriered in from alternate sites. This option tends to make the most sense for health systems with many facilities within close proximity. Each facility can send specimens for complex testing to a central lab, while continuing to run immediate need point-of-care testing at the time of the patient encounter.
Or, you can decentralize to offer lab testing at the point of patient care. Systems with fewer facilities spread over larger geographic areas may be better served by a decentralized structure, where each facility manages its own complete lab operation.
Other factors to consider for a centralized versus a decentralized lab are your payor mix, the space available for lab operations, personnel needs and state regulatory requirements.
Best Practices for Standardization
When lab facilities are decentralized, it becomes very important to standardize products and processes. Health systems can realize significant savings by reviewing the products each facility is purchasing, and standardizing to the most cost-effective products that provide for the best patient outcomes. Product formularies can be set up in each facility’s ordering system to help ensure compliance. Work with your laboratory staff to ensure that all team members are following the same processes, so every facility is conducting testing in an accurate, efficient and patient-friendly way.
Connectivity is also critical in both centralized and decentralized labs. Many laboratory analyzers can be connected via lab information systems (LIS) to your EMR system, allowing test results to be stored and shared among a number of facilities.
Operational, Clinical & Financial Efficiency
Enhance the quality of lab testing by aligning stakeholders and executing on key operational, clinical and financial initiatives. This provides a higher level of patient satisfaction and quality of care to the patients you serve.
American Journal Clinical Pathology 2014 Nov;142:640-646, Implementation of Point-of-Care Testing in an Ambulatory Practice of an Academic Medical Center
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Improving Quality & Efficiency
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1: Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina, Palmetto Primary Care Physicians Medical Home Pilot Study. A study followed 809 diabetic patients at 22 sites with 55 providers that delivered lab testing with a PCMH structure to evaluate improved outcomes).
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