Business Intelligence software now allows for real-time data capture, analysis and evaluation of medical laboratory operations
For clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups across the nation, the latest use of middleware is for business intelligence. This is a brand-new trend, as only first-mover and early adopter medical laboratories have acquired and currently use some type of middleware solution that delivers business intelligence.
One-by-one, laboratory informatics companies are crafting middleware products specifically designed to deliver business intelligence to their customers and clients. Business Intelligence (BI) is a computer-based approach to collecting and analyzing business data. A flurry of activity in the laboratory informatics sector reinforces the importance of health IT and healthcare analytics in an increasingly competitive medical laboratory testing market.
Although business intelligence products are new to the clinical laboratory industry, they have been in wide use for almost two decades in many Fortune 1000 companies. One of the early leaders in this field was SAP AG of Walldorf, Germany.
Gives Clinical Laboratories New Tools for Managing in Real Time
In its ultimate application, a business intelligence system allows companies to record, track, and manage almost every key performance indicator within the organizations. A comprehensive BI solution provides laboratories with insight into opportunities for revenue growth, quality improvement, and operational efficiencies. A comprehensive BI solution provides laboratories with insight into opportunities for revenue growth, quality improvement, and operational efficiencies.
The complexity of a modern medical laboratory makes adoption of a business intelligence system an effective way to manage all operational activities with the goal of improving quality and client service, while identifying and eliminating the source of errors. Business intelligence solutions fit the definition of middleware because they typically interface to most of the important data sources within the typical clinical laboratory.
Such data sources include the laboratory information system (LIS), lab automation systems (LAS), individual analyzers, courier/logistics tracking systems, billing/collection systems, lab test ordering/resulting systems, and similar sources of operational data within the laboratory and the parent hospital or health system.
All clinical laboratories and pathology groups are under pressure: 1) to improve quality; 2) to deliver a higher level of service; and, 3) to do all of this while squeezing out every unnecessary cost. At the same time, medical labs must support the ongoing integration of health informatics.
To deal with this torrent of business and clinical data, some progressive clinical lab organizations are implementing informatics tools to capture data in real time and make sense of it. Among the vendors offering such solutions to laboratories are Viewics, HC1.com, Sunquest Information Systems, and The ARx Group, to name some early entrants in this product category.
Clinical laboratory administrators are familiar with some of the long-established middleware companies, such as Data Innovations and Dawning Technologies. In recent years, Dark Daily is aware of at least two companies have launched business intelligence products designed specifically for medical laboratories. One is HC1, offered by Bostech. The other is Viewics.
Business Intelligence Solutions for Medical Laboratories
Traditionally, if a laboratory manager or healthcare executive wanted to create a specific new productivity reports, they had to ask their IT department to pull together the data and create the desired report. A good business intelligence software solution changes that status quo because it streamlines the way information is extracted and used. Now the laboratory staff can quickly create productivity reports without the need to involve the hospital’s information technology department.
Why is this true? Today’s BI software is far more robust than previous iterations. It is also more affordable. At the same time, these BI solutions put the analytics tools at the fingertips of laboratory managers—without the need to engage the institution’s IT department.
Best of all, real-time dashboard reports can often be delivered directly to the manager’s desktop, iPad, or mobile device. Often the BI applications are cloud-based and available in the form of Software-As-A-Service (SaaS). This delivery mechanism keeps costs down and increases flexibility.
BI software solutions now being used in clinical laboratories and pathology groups are specifically designed to support the business functions and operational needs of a medical testing laboratory. Some features are the ability to:
- Analyze and track lab test utilization by client and by physician;
- Manage and grow laboratory testing outreach business;
- Perform root-cause analyses into performance variation in areas such as Turnaround Time Outliers;
- Provide detailed work load data in a dynamic manner to better align staffing levels;
- Identify trends in order entry errors; and,
- Identify trends in credited and corrected lab tests, often by individual payer and client.
“Robust BI solutions put easy-to-use, actionable, and relevant information in the hands of those who need it, when they need it,” stated Tim Kuruvilla, COO at Viewics. “We find that forward-thinking laboratories are prioritizing solutions that can work with different sources of data.
“Such labs are advanced users of information technology,” he continued. “They want to be low-touch on IT and fully enable their operational teams to interact with data in real time. Their goal is to use novel IT solutions to make it easy to slice, dice, and drill-down into the data. In turn, this allows lab managers and executives—often from their own computer—to immediately access relevant data, analyze it, and determine next steps.”
White Paper on Data Mining and Dashboarding within Clinical Laboratories
Dark Daily has just published a free White Paper that focuses on utilization of business intelligence in the clinical diagnostic laboratory to bring about cost efficiencies and revenue enhancement. It is titled, “Data Mining and Dashboarding Within Your Clinical Laboratory and Pathology Environment.”
It should also be noted that the arrival of reasonably-priced, easy-to-use business intelligence solutions tailored specifically to the needs of clinical laboratories and pathology groups is an important development. Everything in life—and the American healthcare system—is moving to “real time” information feeds and decision-making.
The rapid take-up of smart phones and iPads by clinicians, for example, creates the opportunity for hospital laboratory outreach programs to use business intelligence to serve the needs of these clinicians with improved service levels and customized offerings.
Just as “speed to answer” has driven lab test manufacturers to develop rapid testing solutions, such as point-of-care testing devices, so also will “speed to answer” be the strategic driver behind the adoption of business intelligence by forward-looking clinical lab managers and pathologists.
—By Mark Terry