Creating a Clear Line of Sight: The Importance of Visibility and Workflow for Hospital Labs
Tips to efficiently run a clinical lab while prioritizing patient care and employee well-being
Healthcare providers cannot effectively manage patient care or make clinically sound decisions if they don’t have access to key information. As the US faced a shortage of roughly 25,000 medical laboratory professionals in 2022 alone, quickly and efficiently notifying providers of time-sensitive lab results has become more cumbersome.
Unfortunately, current clinical workflows don’t always ensure that patient support teams are at the forefront of communication. Automating and managing operational workflows and streamlining their processes can help clinical labs—now smaller and leaner—save time, enhance collaboration, and create transparency between departments to uphold quality patient care.
However, it’s not always easy. Hospital labs must seek out ways to enhance their workflow by identifying trigger events such as test volume changes, TaT delay spikes, staffing shortages, and increased specimen processing issues in order to eliminate manual tasks and use data to effectively improve both clinical and business operations.
How to improve laboratory management workflows
Last July, Lighthouse released the results of its 2022 survey on wage and morale issues among medical laboratory professionals. The collected data from 1,112 respondents found that only 27 percent indicated their clinical laboratories were adequately or well staffed. Forty percent of respondents believed their labs were moderately understaffed while an additional 33 percent felt their labs were significantly understaffed.
One of the most valuable ways to help ease the burden of understaffing and improve lab management workflows is to automate whenever and wherever possible. Relieve demands on IT, patient support, and customer service teams by standardizing and automating high-priority operational workflows involving critical clinical data. This will not only increase efficiency but also allow laboratories to focus on more critical tasks while addressing the shifting economic and staffing landscape.
Ways to address challenges in hospital laboratories
Taking it a step further and automating case creation and creating a countdown to response is crucial. In a study that surveyed 262 clinicians, 83 percent reported at least one delay in reviewing test results during the previous two months. The study said, “Despite reporting that they spent 74 minutes per clinical day, on average, managing test results, only 41 percent of clinicians reported being satisfied with how they managed test results.”
The most highly desired features were tools to
- help generate result letters to patients,
- prioritize their workflow, and
- track the progress of test orders.
When a patient’s health is in jeopardy, a rapid response matters most. Critical and urgent test results that generate automated workflow cases with embedded rapid response countdown timers not only streamline the coordination of patient care but can also save a life.
Lastly, deploying an integrated single system that could customize a hospital lab's workflow ensures that proper action is taken within the allotted time with fast, real-time access to key information that hospital lab teams need.
With lab tests informing 70 percent of today’s medical decisions, digital health solutions that help address the challenges in hospital laboratories will ultimately lead to better patient care and help relieve the pressure on staff across the entire healthcare system. The clear line of sight created through better visibility and workflows ensures lab professionals can do what they’ve been trained to do best without barriers.