If your lab is experiencing several challenges in operations, business productivity, or quality control, then this expert article is for you!
Being a consultant at many labs for the last 10 years, I believe barcoding of samples is an advantage. It helps the lab improve in many ways. Another area that I find where labs can have fast improvement is interfacing. Most of the errors that labs are making are transcription errors or sample errors.
Sample errors are eliminated with barcodes & usage of vacutainer guides, whereas transcription errors are reduced using bi-directional interfacing. No typing involved means no errors involved.
How does Pathology Software help?
In 2012, I used to sit for at least 3-4 hours, checking & validating around 400-500 reports. The evaluation time was mostly spent on correcting typing errors. In 2021, I have integrated technology and cloud-based LIS with barcoding and bidirectional interfacing. It has made the process much easier, faster and error-free.
So getting the routine tests automated using the LIMS system lets me manage them faster and allows me to concentrate my time on specialised fields such as histopathology.
With the QC in range, it indicates that the reports are correct. In that case, checking of normal reports can be done much faster with automation and technology before they are dispatched whereas alerts can be set for reports with critical values.
Key Take-Aways for Labs
As a consultant, I have made huge changes for many labs by advising them to go for interfacing. Whichever software the lab is using, my advice to them is to go for bi-directional interfacing and barcoding of the sample collection process. This has scaled up many labs; since they don’t realize that they are saving cost rather than hiring a typist for typing reports. Manual typing is the leading cause of report errors. I’ve shown them how by adopting sample barcoding & bidirectional interfacing, they can scale up their model to 10x volume and ensure 10x accuracy.
I’ve come across labs that had errors on a weekly basis despite the pathologist checking the error. It had a typist to type all the reports. They weren’t using software but a word format with headers and footers and the numbers were edited manually.
They were doing around 150-200 tests per day. They were having good volume but there were so many errors. I convinced them to try it my way and asked them to trust me and see the difference. They bought a barcode printer, adapted to vacutainer standardisation, and interfaced all instruments bidirectionally.
Within a matter of 1 year, the number of tests doubled and within 3 years the lab’s revenue went up from 5 lakhs a month to 20 lakhs a month. This also encouraged other hospitals to refer samples to such labs since the report delivery service at the lab was faster and free from errors.
With bidirectional interfacing, samples are processed and the latter part includes doctors to interpret and approve the reports. Once approved, the patients and clinicians get immediate updates of the test results on the mobile app or email/WhatsApp. An 8 hours task was being completed in 2 hours. That was the level of efficiency from just barcoding & interfacing, which people don't realise yet.
"Grow with Technology, with the Market"
Many labs that are private path labs still work the old way. They say we are saving costs. I don’t believe in that. If you save costs like that, you’ll always remain a small lab.
If you want to remain a small lab in 2021, or 2035, you’ll always remain a small lab unless you make bold decisions.
Unless you change with technology, you’ll never grow; and you have to grow with the market. Efficiency is important and decreasing errors is important. Any lab I go for consultancy I ask, do you have interfacing? Do you use a vacutainer? Do you have a barcode printer? It is a basic necessity right now for labs. Anyone who is not doing this is not growing.
Today I know my QC is in range, I can check it on my mobile anytime, anywhere. If my QC goes out of range, I just have to message my technician to get things done, to make it normal again. I am also able to check previous values and trends. I am able to check clinical correlation and multiple test parameters. All this is available on the mobile app in real-time through cloud software.
To conclude, lab tech has really helped me to scale up my operations and integrate quality. For 10-15 years labs have been working the same way, they don’t want to change the way they're working, that’s why. There is a deficiency in the industry - across labs. If this problem is solved we would be able to manage laboratory operations better, deliver quality, and scale the business very well.
If you have any questions, suggestions, or requests, drop them in the comment box.