Hospital labs come in under budget—while still improving quality, service, and revenue
Despite the recession, most first-rank hospital and health system laboratories in the United States remain upbeat about the financial integrity of their organization and their ability to negotiate the deepest economic recession since 1981-82. One reason this is true is the use of Lean, Six Sigma, and similar continuous improvement methods in the nation’s most progressive clinical labs and pathology groups.
Unlike the recession of 28 years ago, clinical laboratories today can use their experienced Lean teams to trim costs without comparable reductions in quality or service. Not surprisingly, clinical laboratories were quick to recognize how, during this economic recession, their existing Lean and process improvement programs could be tweaked with minimal effort to produce maximum operational savings. Thus, hospital labs during the past 12 months have been able to cut significant cost from their operations without any compromise in quality or the level of service they deliver to referring physicians.
Learn why medical labs shoot themselves in the foot when advertising and interviewing candidate!
Probably the single most publicized trend in laboratory medicine is the shortage of medical technologists (MTs), clinical laboratory scientists (CLS), and medical laboratory technologists (MLTs). This shortage prevents many clinical laboratory managers from keeping their laboratories staffed at authorized levels.
Equally publicized is the looming mass exodus of Baby Boomers from clinical laboratory positions as they hit retirement age. The oldest Baby Boomers, born in 1946, are turning 63 this year! They are already eligible for early Social Security benefits and just 24 months from turning 65-the age when full Social Security and Medicare benefits are available to them.
It’s an important first for the laboratory medicine profession in the United States. In recent months, two clinical laboratories received formal notice of their successful accreditation with the standards of ISO 15189:Medical Laboratories.
In November 2008, Piedmont Medical Laboratory of Winchester, Virginia became the first laboratory in the United States to be officially accredited under ISO 15189. Last month, in January 2009, the laboratory at Avera McKennan Hospital and University Health Center Avera McKennan Medical Laboratory in Sioux Falls, South Dakota received its official notification of ISO 15189 accreditation.
The Dark Report was first to alert the laboratory industry to the accreditation efforts by Piedmont and Avera McKennan. (See “First U.S. Laboratories Nearing ISO:15189 Accreditation,” The Dark Report, August 18, 2008) The decision by both laboratories to pursue ISO 15189 accreditation shows how the quality management trend is establishing deeper roots among labs in this country.
ISO 15189 is designed specifically for medical laboratories. It is a quality management system to help laboratories develop a highly-disciplined approach to improving the quality of services and outcomes. It provides a road map for identifying opportunities to improve, implementing change, and then sustaining the resulting gains in quality. The process involves nine steps and typically takes two years to complete.
Both Piedmont and Avera achieved their ISO 15189 accreditation through a new program offered by the College of American Pathologists (CAP). In the United States, ISO 15189 accreditation is a voluntary step and does not replace a laboratory’s requirement to maintain its CLIA license.
One reason Piedmont Medical Laboratory invested the considerable time and resources required to achieve ISO 15189 accreditation is to build its credibility with local businesses and employers. Joseph Skrisson, President and CEO of Piedmont Medical Laboratory, points out that most businesses are very familiar with ISO accreditation. Many companies have become ISO-accredited themselves over the years. On the other hand, they generally don’t recognize the significance of accreditation through the programs of either the Joint Commission or CAP.
Leadership in quality management is a primary strategy at Avera McKennan Laboratory. Leo Serrano, Director of Laboratory Services at Avera McKennan Laboratory, observed that achieving ISO 15189 accreditation is consistent with his laboratory’s use of quality management methods such as Lean and Six Sigma. As with Piedmont, Avera McKennan believes that ISO 15189 accreditation will be recognized and respected by local employers and businesses.
Regular readers of Dark Daily now that ISO 15189:Medical Laboratories is gaining acceptance across the globe as an international standard for laboratory accreditation and reimbursement. This is particularly true in countries which have previously lacked any type of licensing or accreditation requirement. Because of the existing, rigorous federal and state licensing mandates in the United States, only a limited number of labs in this country will likely invest the resources to achieve ISO 15189 accreditation in the short term. -P. Kirk