News, Analysis, Trends, Management Innovations for
Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups

Hosted by Robert Michel

News, Analysis, Trends, Management Innovations for
Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups

Hosted by Robert Michel
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With Experienced Baby Boomers Retiring in Ever-Larger Numbers, Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups Use New Methods to Improve Productivity, Reduce Costs

All labs face the challenge of coping with shrinking budgets and staffing shortages, which is why coaching, management observation, and continuous improvement initiatives are proving helpful to medical laboratories

It’s the biggest generational shift since baby boomers began working in clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups. Across the nation, labs are watching their most experienced and knowledgeable medical technologists and other lab scientists retire. The need to train their replacements while maintaining peak productivity and controlling costs is motivating lab leaders to adopt powerful new management methods.

Innovative lab administrators and pathologists recognize that automation and the ability to leverage the increasing amounts of data produced by today’s innovative diagnostic technologies and assays can only go so far in helping to compensate for declining revenues.

This is why one trend is quietly gaining momentum. There are many medical laboratories, pathology groups, and other diagnostics providers working to help their lab staffs create a culture of continuous, meaningful improvement. The stakes are great. Not only is this essential for financial sustainability, it can be the source of competitive advantage with physicians, patients, and payers in today’s increasingly competitive diagnostic market.

This is why many medical laboratories are turning to continuous improvement systems such as Lean to increase personnel skills, reduce waste, and make the most out of shrinking budgets and margins. Yet, without a solid foundation of staff trained in these methods and a framework of processes to encourage improvement, lean laboratory managers often struggle to see consistent, significant improvements.

Optimizing Staff Performance and Developing Improvement Processes with Coaching and Management Observation

Performance Coaching and Management Observation offer powerful tools for laboratory managers to reinforce improvement efforts. They encourage the success of personnel, leverage existing personnel to meet growing demands while maintaining service levels, and establish an effective foundation for Lean execution.

Benefits of effective coaching and management observation sessions for laboratories include:

  • Enhancement of laboratory manager performance and skills;
  • Improved retention of skilled labor and consistent improvement of personnel skills through individualized assessment and improved communication;
  • Establishing a method of creating and maintaining a culture of continuous improvement, while empowering staff across all levels of lab operations; and,
  • Creating a competitive edge on laboratories struggling to implement Lean processes and other optimizations in response to increased workloads, reduced staff, and tighter budgets.

Stephen Stone (left), Managing Director, Argent Global Services, and, Rita D’Angelo, PhD (right), President and CEO, D’Angelo Advantage, spoke at Lab Quality Confab in 2018 on the benefits of coaching and management observation sessions for clinical laboratories and implementing continuous improvement systems using Lean Production Methods. (Photo copyright: Dark Daily.)

“While many laboratories are familiar with management observation because of competency testing, few laboratories use coaching and management observation as part of their Lean efforts.” Stephen Stone, Managing Director at Argent Global Services told Dark Daily. “Coaching and management observation offers laboratories an effective means to not only increase throughput using existing staffing and encourage sustainable growth, but also increase retention of existing skilled personnel and reduce hiring costs.”

Speaking at Lab Quality Confab in Oct. 2018, Stone highlighted why these later benefits are increasingly important to laboratories. Citing data from LabTestingMatters and the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), he reported that while the job market for medical technologist and laboratory technician openings should increase by roughly 11,300 openings in 2018, fewer than 5,000 individuals are graduating each year from accredited training programs.

Lab Supervisor Retirements Projected to Exceed Staff Retirements

Of possibly greater concern, he goes on to point out, is that projected retirement rates for supervisors are higher than those of staff. This means laboratories which fail to focus on staff development and retention could face further issues in both leadership and staffing shortages should trends continue.

“Investing in and empowering your staff will improve productivity, improve quality, improve safety, and help laboratories to work toward goals as a cohesive team,” Rita D’Angelo, PhD, President and CEO at D’Angelo Advantage, LLC, told Dark Daily. “As a result, costs and waste drop significantly. Coaching and management observation alongside a culture of continuous improvement can help labs to overcome many of the staffing and budget obstacles faced today.”

Preparing Your Lab for Continuous Improvement

To help labs prepare for these significant trends, D’Angelo and Stone will co-present a 90-minute webinar on Jan. 16th titled, “Performance Coaching and Management Observations to Improve Productivity and Efficiency: Strengthening the Skills of Management to Execute a Lean Lab Transformation.”

The webinar will include essential coaching skills to help laboratory managers pass on the skills to serve as Lean champions to personnel and establish the foundation and structure for a lasting culture of improvement within the laboratory.

C-Level laboratory leadership, laboratory directors, managers and supervisors, and key members of continuous improvement teams also can use the interactive Q/A session following the webinar to gain answers to questions and concerns directly facing their laboratories’ efforts to develop continuous improvement processes or implement Lean methodologies.

(To register for this critical Jan. 16th webinar, click here. Or, copy and paste this URL into your browser:

—Jon Stone

Related Information:

Performance Coaching and Management Observations to Improve Productivity and Efficiency: Strengthening the Skills of Management to Execute a Lean Lab Transformation

Performance Coaching and Management Observations in the Lab: Master this Proven Way to Develop Your Lab’s Managers, Supervisors, and Lab Staff

Secrets of Effective Culture Change in Hospital and Health System Labs: Engaging Staff to Continuously Improve, Sustain Quality, and Regularly Cut Unnecessary Costs

Facing Increasing Pressure from an Evolving Regulatory Environment, Clinical Laboratories Need to be ‘Inspection Ready’ in 2019

Experts say medical laboratories must overcome staffing challenges and develop a culture of continual inspection readiness

Clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups will be entering 2019 facing not only financial upheaval from Medicare Part B fee cuts and narrowing payer networks, but also an increasingly rigorous and ever-evolving regulatory environment.

Although the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) requirements have not undergone major changes since debuting in 1992, the medical laboratory industry has become more complex and technology-laden, resulting in old rules being applied to emerging technologies.

“People can get lulled into this sense that we know what standards are and we’re meeting them, but what has happened is the rules haven’t really changed—the industry has,” says Nora L. Hess, MBA, MT(ASCP), Senior Consultant for Accumen, a lab quality improvement company in San Diego, CA. “Technology is now jumping ahead so fast that keeping up with it and understanding how the rules are going to be applied is challenging.”

Hess and Anne T. Daley, MS, Quality Officer at ARUP Laboratories in Salt Lake City, UT, will co-present a 90-minute webinar on Dec. 13th titled, “Make Your Lab Assessment Ready in 2019: Know the Most Common Deficiencies in Accreditation and Certification and What to Expect in the Future.”

The program will review the top deficiencies reported by the College of American Pathologists (CAP), the Joint Commission, A2LA, and COLA.

Anne T. Daley, MS, CMQOE, CSSBB, CLC, MT, DLM (left), and Nora L. Hess, MBA, MT(ASCP), PMP (right), are Senior Consultants with Chi Solutions, an Accumen company. Together, they have extensive first-hand experience guiding clinical laboratories through the rigid and rigorous process of achieving inspection-ready status. (Photo copyrights: Chi Solutions, Inc.)

Why being ‘Inspection Ready’ Can Improve Performance and Increase Revenue

Striving to be “inspection ready” should be the goal of every clinical laboratory and pathology group. However, Daley notes labs typically operate with staffs that are stretched thin by retirements, illnesses, staff shortages, or ancillary demands on administrators’ time, caused by system-wide initiatives that range from electronic health record (EHR) rollouts to integration and consolidation of other labs.

“Most hospital laboratories are staffed at a level where they are working hard just to meet the daily patient care needs,” Daley says. “You add in all these additional projects and something has to give.”

In today’s challenging environment, Hess says laboratories that consistently perform well during the inspection process share several characteristics, including the following:

  • a culture of quality across the laboratory; and,
  • an emphasis on inspection readiness.

“They make inspection readiness a consistent focus across the entire laboratory,” Hess notes. “It becomes part of the calendar. It becomes part of what they talk about all the time. It is a part of their decision-making. It is hardwired into who they are and what they do … successful laboratories are making this part of their day-to-day activities, so it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle and it doesn’t get back-burnered.”

Hess and Daley note the types of deficiencies cited by accreditation agencies tend not to vary much from year to year. Testing personnel competency and proficiency testing are common themes, annually ranking high on top-10 lists of deficiencies found. However, laboratory directors increasingly are being singled out for issues related to qualifications and performance of responsibilities.

(To register for their Dec. 13th webinar or to order a DVD, click here. Or, copy and paste this URL into your browser:

Andrea Downing Peck

Related Information:

Make Your Lab Assessment Ready in 2019: Know the Most Common Deficiencies in Accreditation and Certification

CLIA Inspection–What they Mean and How to Avoid Them

‘We Wanted to Be the Best we Could Possibly Be’: CAP ISO 15189-Accredited Labs on the Difference it Makes

Are CLIA Inspections of Clinical Pathology Laboratories Getting Tougher? Why It Pays to Achieve “Inspection Readiness”