With more medical laboratories making progress on improving the operational performance of their labs, and the level of service they provide to their clients, they are finding it essential to have real-time analytics and healthcare relationship management systems
In today’s world of clinical laboratory medicine, the pace of daily operations continues to increase. Everything happens faster as the nation’s leading medical laboratories apply Lean and other process improvement methods to speed up workflow with the goal of shortening lab test turnaround times.
However, those labs making progress on doing more faster and in less time have a challenge: they require information systems and software that can feed essential information to lab managers and staff in real time. It is for this reason that some of the best-selling informatics products in the clinical laboratory industry these days are middleware solutions and healthcare relationship management (HRM) solutions that support real-time analytics and help medical labs improve their client service.
In the past, clinical laboratories and pathology groups often developed in-house solutions to help manage data and generate reports. While data in these systems often drove diagnostic decisions, with the pace of technological change and demands for reduced turnaround times (TATs), these systems often struggled to provide:
• A comprehensive overview;
• Timely reporting; or
• Maximize the business intelligence (BI) value of these ever-growing data silos.
In recent years, new companies have recognized this need, creating a new generation of healthcare relationship management (HRM) suites to provide answers to common struggles faced by progressive pathology groups and medical laboratories.
Using ‘Healthcare-Specific’ CRM to Consolidate Disparate Data Silos and Improve Data Value
One obstacle familiar to many laboratories is the variety of data silos created across departments or even testing menus. As the number of systems, or the number of specialties in which the clinical laboratory offers services, increase, so do the number of silos. Obtaining an overall view of laboratory operations, or cross-departmental processes, in a silo-based environment requires:
• Analyzing data from multiple silos;
• Converting or rebasing data to ensure accurate comparison; and
• Potentially learning a new system to interact with the data from each silo.
All of this generates waste for those clinical laboratories pushing to optimize operations. Also, as data is touched by multiple teams and fed through multiple reports before reaching conclusions, there is greater chance of introducing errors into what started as clean data.
To help address these concerns, a growing number of labs are turning to “healthcare-specific” CRM systems (HRMs). These solutions make it possible to integrate existing silos and systems into a centralized interface through automated data capturing. This means less human interaction needed and less chances of dirty data.
“Since implementing our HRM solution, time taken to consolidate and align data has reduced considerably,” stated Tamara Nelson, Lean Master Black Belt at Sonora Quest Laboratories and Laboratory Sciences of Arizona. “This allows for increased accuracy and faster analysis. With productivity measures in one department alone, we’ve eliminated at least 20 managerial hours a month previously reserved for collecting and organizing data. Ultimately, when considering the benefits to all facets of lab operations, this allows greater optimization and better adjustment of client service.”
Using Real-Time Analysis to Highlight Issues and Adjust the Client Experience
With the traditional silo-based approach, the time required to collect and organize information on key performance indicators (KPIs) and client relations meant most medical laboratories often limited analysis to periodic reviews. This was adequate when the market involved small service menus distributed across a select set of labs.
Both the quantity of laboratories and the options on their menus have grown considerably in recent years. Clients that aren’t experiencing the service they expect may move to a competing lab service provider before issues even appear on 90- or 120-day reports.
By consolidating silos and providing a single interface through which all information is accessed, generating powerful reports that provide a 360-degree view of laboratory operations, client relationships, and KPIs is possible on-demand.
“With access to comprehensive data across all departments, report generation has shifted from data- or event-centric approaches to client- and process-centric,” explained Nelson. “We can now build reports tailored to individual situations on-demand, eliminating delays. Since they report through our HRM, data is delivered already customized to the needs of the department requesting the report and aligned with their KPIs and units of measurement. This provides the opportunity to drastically reduce the length of the reporting cycle and make smaller adjustments more often leading to better personalization for client services.”
Streamline the Client Care Experience and Increase Accountability
One area where legacy or in-house systems often fail is when data has both clinical and business intelligence value. Comprehensive data management systems, such as HRMs, allow you to see both sides of your data.
In an article he penned for Medical Laboratory Observer, Brad Bostic, Founder and CEO of the hc1 Healthcare Relationship Cloud System, said, “Although many labs can access TAT, volume, and other client information in the clinical system, too often it is not presented in an actionable manner. With many data silos and heavy labor involved in pulling data into relevant reports, the health of individual client relationships can be difficult to pinpoint.”
HRM solutions allow users with permissions to access the same platform for information. Communications, analysis, and reporting can all happen in the same place. No need to train departments on multiple systems or forward requests multiple times to complete a process. Data, reports, points of contact, and more are all consolidated to provide a single point of entry that can be adapted to suit the scope and skills of the department or staff.
All of this makes it possible to create internal KPIs, segment data collection, and get an overall view of processes that many labs struggle to create using in-house systems—or even multiple, disparate solutions.
“We’re now able to set productivity measurements by both department and work unit,” said Tamara Nelson. “Filtering is possible by shift, day of the week, and individual. We can further segment by task classification, such as administration, training, or productive. This allows us to spend more time completing ‘value added’ tasks.”
Healthcare reform and market trends make it critical for medical laboratories to find new ways to trim waste and increase efficiency without sacrificing accuracy or service quality. In recognizing these unique challenges, The Dark Report and Dark Daily have produced a white paper, “3 Ways Labs Can Increase Revenue and Gain a Competitive Advantage in the Marketplace,” which is available to download at no cost.
The white paper explains how healthcare-specific CRMs help laboratories to differentiate their client services from the competition and increase the BI value of their data. The white paper also discusses the importance of strong client relations and methods for monitoring client relations.