Jane Hermansen, Outreach and Network Manager at Mayo Medical Laboratories in Rochester, Minnesota, recently authored an article featured in MedicalLab Management on integrating laboratory outreach across the health system. Vertical integration of laboratory services is critical to support the delivery of care in each area of patient access across the continuum. However, due to the essential nature of laboratory testing for immediate patient care, integrating laboratory services across the system raises additional complexities.
For example, laboratory outreach may be identified in different ways. According to Hermansen, "Some may include outpatients from employed providers, while others may consider testing from only non-affiliated sources. Regardless of the criteria used to define outreach testing, a systematic approach is required to maximize the impact of an integrated system laboratory outreach program. It is incumbent upon laboratory leadership to optimize both the horizontal and vertical integration of laboratory services within the organization."
Hermansen says it's important to start with a vision. There are opportunities to realize operational efficiencies across multiple laboratories in terms of standardizing equipment, procedures, systems, etc., consolidating purchasing contracts, reorganizing management structure and staff, and creating centers of excellence.
It is also critical to identify an executive sponsor. According to Hermansen, "An administrative champion can provide support, make key decisions, spearhead change, and communicate laboratory needs to executive leadership."
When optimizing outreach activity system-wide, it is essential to establish a baseline inventory of each laboratory’s outreach program capabilities. These include:
After determining a baseline inventory, it is important to evaluate data and outreach structure options. While there are many outreach program models, no one model can be singled out as the best solution. Models include:
According to Hermansen, "As health system consolidation continues, laboratory outreach must be leveraged to retain laboratory testing within our health systems and aid in the local provision of integrated patient care. When integrating a laboratory outreach program across a health system, make small changes, perform pilot activities, pause, re-evaluate, and then continue to move forward. The key to enduring success is to ensure alignment with system objectives while leveraging location-specific best practices, recognizing local and competitive dynamics, and using data to drive decisions and track progress."