There are multiple critical components that go into making sure organizations in almost any industry run as smoothly as possible. The healthcare industry and its laboratories are no exception to this. In fact, labs are arguably more in need of good management and performance than most other organizations. If labs can’t be run efficiently and safely, it can cause all kinds of problems, potentially even life-threatening issues. Major changes are taking place to the United States health system. To ensure that labs are operating at peak efficiency, they are being evaluated and inspected regularly. The healthcare industry, in general, is facing too many areas of weakness, and in an environment where value-based healthcare is on the rise, this isn’t acceptable.

During contemporary times, the need for clinical laboratories to maximize their performance and improve their value is greater than ever. Unfortunately, some labs are running below capacity and efficiency. Even though laboratory services are typically only about five percent of the cost of a health system, they are an essential component of delivering care to patients. Some aspect of each patient’s healthcare is rooted within a laboratory. Labs need to perform at their peak in order for healthcare systems to run smoothly, provide optimal patient care, and have a competitive edge.

By retaining, optimizing, and improving lab operations, health systems can enhance the service and quality they provide. Just as with other organizations, there are key performance management principles that apply to how a lab runs and need to be followed closely in order to ensure optimal performance. These three principles are the ability to operate with speed, accuracy, and efficiency.

It might seem like it’s straightforward to achieve these three PMS principles, but in actuality, it’s much easier said than done. The three need to work together smoothly and in harmony in order for a lab to run well. Labs can all too easily run into trouble when they don’t find that balance, and this leads to a domino effect that threatens the health system’s overall efficiency and productivity.

PMS Principles

Operating With Accuracy

A health system’s cost and efficiency are directly impacted by accuracy. What’s more, labs that don’t run accurately can have a detrimental effect on patient health. Unless an error in a test order is corrected, everything that follows, from specimen collection and processing to reporting, will be meaningless. Every one of these steps is dependent upon how well the previous one has been carried out. This requires accuracy. Even more importantly, the other two principles, speed, and efficiency can’t improve until the lab is operating as accurately as possible. If accuracy isn’t working as it needs to, then speeding up will only create more mistakes, and efficiency will go out the window.

Labs are nothing if not accurate. Most healthcare systems require extreme accuracy and attention to detail in order to produce the right products and services. In order to produce accurate results and products, the lab must run the right tests quickly and accurately.

Operating With Efficiency

Efficiency is a key performance management indicator in a huge number of industries, and laboratories are no exception. Labs can achieve measurable improvements in efficiency by optimizing and modernizing operations, people, processes, and technology. It’s much easier said than done to run an efficient lab. The first step in working towards better efficiency is to be able to identify inefficiencies. If you look around and pay close attention, you’ll likely notice that inefficiency is present everywhere.

Laboratories have developed and expanded their test menus as testing technology advances, and health systems must adapt to keep up. The optimization and utilization of test menus are key factors in driving lab efficiency, so they must be taken into account in any lab. Monitoring lab tests continuously ensures the right mix of local and reference testing.

In addition to reducing the patient’s wait time upon diagnosis and treatment, labs that are operating on an efficient level can improve physician satisfaction and enhance the health system’s overall value and efficiency. As discussed previously, there needs to also be a healthy balance between speed and accuracy for a lab to be efficient.

Operating With Speed

Anyone who has worked in certain areas of the health industry knows that speed isn’t always possible. Sometimes, labs deal with years of clinical trials and developmental processes, and because of rules, regulations, and compliance, speeding up timelines isn’t always realistic. However, that doesn’t mean that a lab can’t operate with improved speed overall. Just because a lot of lab processes are, by nature, slower, it doesn’t mean that the lab should submit to slow turnaround times and not make attempts to improve speed wherever possible.

Clinical labs benefit from operational intelligence and insights that can lead to faster decisions and better outcomes. The lab’s turnaround time depends on everything from accurate specimen labeling to reliable logistics to an optimized process in the lab. On the clinical side of things, this allows a clinician to diagnose a patient more quickly and begin treatment sooner.

What’s more, whenever possible, testing in-house can speed up the process by reducing the time it takes to make a decision. When tests are sent to external laboratories, additional failure points are introduced, which delay the delivery of products and results.

Labs play an important role in the patient care continuum, but they are often overlooked in the healthcare system. Healthcare is vast, and because labs often operate in the background and not on the frontlines, it can be far too easy to forget about how important they are in the overall scheme of things. Health systems can save significant amounts of money through the use of performance management while improving the lab’s performance to the highest standards. Labs need to operate using basic performance management principles and systems in order to prevent critical breakdowns in the chain that ultimately leads to good patient care.