Labs are integral to exceptional patient care, and in today’s healthcare landscape, the demands on laboratories are greater than ever. Healthcare organizations must balance efficiency and precision while championing the needs of both patients and the laboratory team.
Excellence in the lab is a matter of life and death — for patients and organizations. According to the American Hospital Association, the costs associated with lab services per patient surged by over 27% in 2022 alone. When the lab isn’t treated with the gravitas it deserves, it can pose risks to patients and the hospital. Understanding the conditions in your laboratory is crucial for improving patient care outcomes, retaining your laboratory technicians and scientists, and assuring the organization’s continued success. Engaging a laboratory consultant helps healthcare organizations identify opportunities for improvement, manage transitions, and implement sustainable solutions.
Here, we delve into five indicators that signal the need for an interim laboratory consultant.
1. Your Laboratory Experiences Gaps in Performance
An interim lab consultant offers a unique outsider’s perspective, allowing them to discern the root causes of challenges and quality gaps within your lab. For example, a California hospital struggling with its laboratory services engaged a qualified interim Director through Kirby Bates Associates. She quickly identified high contamination rates and even higher order correction and relabeling rates.
After identifying those gaps in quality, KBA’s interim Director implemented a Gemba Approach. She observed operations, engaged the staff and leadership to make processes more efficient, and ultimately improved the laboratory’s performance and the hospital’s bottom line.
2. Your Lab Doesn’t Leverage Technology
Effective utilization of cutting-edge lab technologies, automations, and solutions can bolster consistency, precision, and efficiency. Laboratories that underutilize established technologies may encounter adverse consequences for patients and staff. Errors can multiply, and fatigue takes a toll on laboratory clinicians. Regrettably, labs that haven’t historically embraced technology and automation may struggle to secure support from leadership for essential devices and software.
Experienced interim laboratory consultants possess the acumen to spot technological gaps in labs. Moreover, they have the expertise to advocate strategically for indispensable tools and technologies, clearly illustrating their direct impact on patient safety, care quality, and the hospital’s bottom line.
3. You Don’t Know if Your Lab Earns as Much as It Can
The gap between Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements and the operational costs of labs is vast and growing. Consequently, labs optimize their financial potential while mitigating risks. Seasoned interim consultants can realign non-compliant areas, introduce enhancements that improve precision, and conduct comprehensive audits of laboratory billing practices.
4. Your Lab Craves Experienced Leadership
Leadership is the cornerstone of excellence in each department of every hospital. Actions and attitudes emanate from the top downward. In the absence of effective leadership, a lab may struggle to uphold a robust safety culture. This could lead to poor patient outcomes, misdiagnoses, or even the loss of accreditation from organizations such as the Joint Commission. Each of these outcomes carries substantial financial implications for the organization.
An interim lab consultant can instill the leadership that catalyzes a lab to excellence. The consultant can foster a culture of safety and develop a comprehensive improvement plan, therefore demonstrating that the lab excels at recognizing deficiencies and deploying a roadmap for their resolution. Without such a plan, a laboratory could jeopardize the hospital’s accreditations and its ability to bill federal payers.
5. Lab Staffing is an Ongoing Challenge
Over the past three years, hospital labor costs have surged by over 250%. Myriad factors contribute to the broader staffing challenges in healthcare, and labs are far from immune. In fact, the ranks of laboratory technicians and scientists have dwindled for decades. In short, laboratories can ill-afford to alienate or lose their valuable staff.
However, when labs grapple with inefficiencies, potential liabilities for clinicians, and staff attrition, they risk losing those dedicated professionals. An interim leader in the lab can pinpoint the underlying problems that may be pushing staff away, ranging from technological limitations that burden lab clinicians to deficiencies in leadership. Subsequently, interim laboratory consultants can leverage their extensive experience to implement strategies that ultimately contribute to the successful retention and recruitment of valuable laboratory staff.
Does Your Hospital’s Lab Need a Consultant?
An interim laboratory consultant offers invaluable guidance and experience during instability and mounting pressures. Their expertise realigns laboratory services, drives critical improvements, and buys executive leadership the time needed to develop a sustainable, long-term solution.
Is your lab facing any of these challenges? Or are you preparing for a major transition? An interim leader from Kirby Bates Associates can bring your hospital peace of mind and the expertise to guide your labs forward. To learn more about how an interim leader can support your organization, contact Kirby Bates today.