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Preparing your lab for STI testing

Sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing is a complicated topic, but it’s also an important one. Despite possible feelings of anxiety and embarrassment, patients know they need fast, accurate and simple results, particularly as their symptoms worsen over time. They turn to providers for answers — and, perhaps most importantly, help.

The problem is that your lab may not be set up to offer all this. Fortunately, there are plenty of solutions for better patient outcomes, and the first step is always solid preparation.

Here’s a look at how to prepare your lab for STI testing and overcome barriers to better health care.

The reality of today’s STI testing

According to the latest available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many STI benchmarks show an increase in infection rates across the country1:

  • Gonorrhea: 648,056 cases — 11% increase since 2018.
  • Syphilis: 207,255 cases — 80% increase since 2018.
  • Syphilis among newborns: 3,755 cases — 183% increase since 2018.

Only one benchmark decreased: 1.6 million cases of chlamydia, down 6.2% from 2018.

Although there’s value in the “talk, test, treat” prevention approach, patients often find that their health care providers aren’t equipped to handle the last two steps. That can lead to delays, frustration and increased symptom severity — which, in turn, diminishes patient satisfaction.

What causes problems in testing and treatment? Here are just a few challenges for providers:

Multiple supplier sources & inefficient communication

Ordering supplies from multiple sources means constantly juggling numerous variables, including interruptions. You might not have everything you need right when you need it. Whether a communication breakdown happens between the patient and the provider or the provider and the lab, the outcome is frustration. That can be especially problematic when simplicity and speed are vital for effective treatment.

Slow turnaround times & disjointed processes

If STI testing involves too many steps and stakeholders, every task represents a potential delay. These slow turnaround times can increase patient stress and allow symptoms to worsen. Sending tests off to reference labs is time consuming for staff as well as following up with the patient. This means delayed diagnosis for the patient while symptoms are worsening.

Solutions for faster, simpler STI testing

As a provider, you want to offer the right help to the right people at the right times. Here are a few simple ways to make it happen:

Prioritize better communication

Success begins with clear communication. Make sure you’re always a welcoming, approachable source of information for your patients, helping ease concerns about judgment or taboo topics. This is especially important when it comes to improved testing and treatment at your lab. After all, there’s a reason “talk” is the first step in the STI prevention plan.

Simplify internal processes

To keep things simple, cut out extra steps in your internal processes, especially concerning supply ordering. This makes it easier to communicate with your supply partners — and your patients, too. It will also minimize wasted time, disjointed tasks and confusion.

Look for expert support

At times, the best improvements may be obvious. However, health care is complicated, especially when you’re changing processes and procedures — so don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Expert consultants can give you advice, recommendations and tips customized to your lab, which means the path forward will be clear.

How to prepare your lab

The best way to improve STI testing in your lab is to simplify as much as possible; however, that’s easier said than done. You need specific, actionable ideas to take those improvements from concept to reality.

Try these steps toward success:

#1: Consolidate Sources

Purchase all of your lab’s sexual health products from a single source. That means everything — including tests, vaccines, generic drugs and even gloves and gowns. This reduces the risk of delays, interruptions and confusion, making supply orders as easy as a few clicks.

#2: Bring Everything In-House

Streamline and improve the lab experience by bringing STI management entirely in-house. You’ll have the final say in speed, quality and more, allowing you to protect what matters most to your patients. Plus, when you prevent, diagnose and treat STIs all in one place (and in one visit), you can maintain consistent messaging that resonates with your community.

#3: Leverage Multiple Testing Types

If you’re like most providers, you likely use two kinds of STI tests: rapid and CLIA-waived. You don’t need licensure to administer these tests, although your practice does need a CLIA certificate and must follow manufacturer instructions. While these simple procedures are generally accurate, they aren’t the best choice for more complex testing.2,3

For that, you’ll need to add CLIA non-waived testing to your lab. However, that also means you’ll need to meet certain requirements, including2:

- Having a CLIA certificate.

- Passing inspections.

- Meeting CLIA quality standards described in 42 CFR Subparts H, J, K and M.

#4: Get Personalized Advice

Only work with expert consultants who spend time getting to know your needs and challenges. They should look beyond your lab’s immediate needs to recommend solutions that will serve your patient population well into the future. Consultants can also help you upgrade your lab and fulfill requirements for CLIA non-waived testing.

Prepare your lab for a brighter future

STI testing and treatment can be a struggle for patients. As their health care provider, you have the opportunity to support them every step of the way by simplifying your processes. Consolidating supply partners, streamlining workflows and bringing more tasks in-house help you optimize patient outcomes. Meanwhile, upgrading to more comprehensive testing makes you a one-stop solution for your community.

Ready to help build a brighter future? Contact us today to learn more about how McKesson solutions can help you achieve these goals and more.