How To Monitor Laboratory Operations?

This is part 1 of a multi-part series of articles on Lab Operations Management.

Husain Rampurawala

Husain Rampurawala

CrelioHealth for Diagnostics (formerly LiveHealth)
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A medical laboratory, in essence, is a place where biological information from a sample or a scan is converted to readable information that can be interpreted by both humans and machines. This is the reason why in a diagnostic lab, processing of information and getting it into the report is the key. The faster, more accurate and cheaper you do it the better is the lab’s performance.

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Getting reports delivered

A Lab manager’s work involves a logistical challenge of getting all the reports delivered on time. The key KPI here is the TAT or Turn Around time. Usually a manager would focus on the current reports to be delivered on the waiting list, while that is necessary to do but at the same time it's also important to see the historical data using TAT analytics. This helps in identifying bottlenecks in the process and places where your workflow can be improved.

Learn how to optimize your Lab’s Turnaround time.

Example: A lab may feel that their reports are taking a lot of time because they do not have enough man-power or machines. But sometimes on analysis it may be found that maximal time is spent after the reports are filled for report validation & approval. It may be wise to change the post-analytical process and maybe look into auto approval of reports to save time.

Workflow management

The other side of the coin is efficiency, where you want the reports to be delivered as quickly as possible. It's also important to keep the operational costs low by optimising the workflow.

The lab may not be able to process all the samples and might need to outsource some samples, but outsourcing samples has its own challenges.

  • Keeping track of outsourced samples
  • Following up with the outsourced lab for the results

Having bidirectional outsourcing helps as this would automate data transfer. It also helps the outsourced lab as they would not need to re-register patients, making the chances of errors very low. Know more about outsourcing management here.

For samples which are done/drawn in-house, the key metric to track is reruns. It's important to track re-runs from both compliance and operational perspective. If not monitored, sample re-runs can lead to very high cost per tests; on the overall. The exception report will allow you to track report redos and sample re-draws.

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The importance of automation cannot be emphasized more where machine interfacing saves time and effort allowing staff to scan samples, process samples and transfer back the results for filling reports. This acts as the key not only to save time but also to improve the accuracy and reliability of results, This also saves quite a lot of time for staff to do more meaningful work, be more productive to improve the quality of lab’s operational outcomes.

If you have histopathology or cytology departments, usually the pre-processing of samples is an operational challenge which sometimes takes more time than the analytical phase. It's important to keep track of the sample statuses and to ensure compliance on various different stages. You can map out all the steps in the sample workflow and keep track of the various flows to make it easy for the staff to comply with the process workflows.


Inventory Management

As a part of your supply chain, inventory management includes aspects such as controlling and overseeing purchases from suppliers— maintaining the storage of stock, controlling the amount in use by your lab team (staff & administration).

The first step towards inventory management is having an organised approach and getting a good system in place which allows you to monitor data and analyse information.

You can leverage systems to get into place - ordering processes and ensuring the recording of information on inventory transfers and moreover on the consumption of inventory. This information would allow you to get a clear picture of inventory in your organisation. The above video can help understand one part of it.


Clear visibility on Inventory information helps you:

  • Reduce costs
  • Optimize fulfillment
  • Maintain smooth operations
  • Prevent loss from theft or spoilage

In a broader context, inventory management also provides insights into your financial standing, understanding trends and can help you determine the costs; so you can price better to your customers.

To improve lab operations management, you can enroll on LiveHealth Academy.