By Jeffrey Vizethann
Since the advent of the bundle in January 2011, many things have changed regarding laboratory services. Advancements in information technology (IT) offer improvements worldwide for all types of industries, including health care. Laboratories are no exception.
There are three fundamental ways a laboratory can leverage IT to help shape patient care while simultaneously improving the operating environment of a dialysis clinic: data management, improved workflow and processes, and physician access to pertinent patient information.
Tests are still performed in the same manner with technical and scientific focus/expertise, but how the results are relayed and what the clinician does with the data has significantly advanced.
Foremost, it is the clinic’s need to manage large, complex amounts of data in an efficient manner that is on everyone’s mind. The average dialysis patient receives over 25 laboratory tests a month. With a clinic of 100 patients, the client will need to support, monitor and analyze over 2,500 individual units/data sets each month and historically for trends, shifts, etc.
With patient care becoming increasingly integrated between multiple caregivers, data management is now being shared across multiple platforms rather than standalone systems.
Managing laboratory data from multiple access points via the web is now imperative. The recent advent of CROWNWeb is one more reason that electronic data management is mandatory and will only get more intensive as regulatory bodies continue adding requirements.
Although electronic systems are quickly becoming the norm, many ancillary providers may still require paper results.
Auto-faxing, is therefore, now a given (although not every laboratory has this capability). In the near future more advanced record retention, document scanning, and interfacing with different platforms, will be required of laboratories.
The second major issue that laboratories must grapple with is their impact on clinical staff as it relates to workflow and productivity. The ease in which clinic staff interface with their laboratory and how they use the information is key to patient treatment; and the financial health of the clinic.
Clinicians want a laboratory that helps with the workflow of their dialysis clinic, not one that is a drain on their time. Staff time is expensive, and an inefficient laboratory wastes valuable staff time through inefficient order entry, specimen preparation and data analysis.