Morris Hospital & Healthcare Centers: Expanding diagnostic care in a rural community
This 89-bed hospital has seen steady growth of their laboratory and lab outreach program over many years. The lab has been so successful that the hospital opened a new hospital building next to an existing lab location.
Located in rural Illinois, Morris Hospital & Healthcare Centers strives to bring better health care to its communities. One way it does this is through its laboratory. “Where my parents live and I grew up, there are limited to no services,” said Kimberly Wolfer, director of Laboratory Services at Morris. After Wolfer became director over 22 years ago, it became her mission to expand lab services into those communities.
Kimberly Wolfer, director of Laboratory Services
growth in volumes from 2012-2019
In 2012, when it was decided to open a new draw site, Wolfer followed her gut. Instead of setting it up in one of the nearby affluent areas where people had better insurance, she looked to the more rural communities. She rented a space near an existing doctor’s office and hired local staff. Soon, they were seeing 30–40 patients in a six-hour shift. With the positive reputation built in the community, when it came time for Morris to build a new hospital building, they chose to build near the successful draw site. The lab eventually moved into that building as well. One year later, they repeated this plan in another community in the opposite direction.
As the laboratory has expanded its physical locations, it has also added to its test menu. The lab offers not just the basics, but also some of the more esoteric testing their community needs. Their capabilities include chemistry, serology, hematology, cytology, microbiology, immunology, coagulation, histology, urinalysis, and the blood bank. This is necessary to meet the needs of providers and their patients, including both Morris Hospital providers as well as independent physician offices in their community.
“You need to have a test menu and test volume,” explained Wolfer. “Otherwise, they will go to a commercial lab. You need to be able to promise you will have in-house testing and the result will be available the afternoon after you draw it.”
“Hospital leadership didn’t understand how important lab was until we had a flood in 2013. When the lab was closed, they found out you can’t have a hospital without a laboratory. After that, the CFO is always going to point out that the lab is making money.” – Kimberly Wolfer, Director of Laboratory Services at Morris Hospital & Healthcare Centers
The laboratory extends its offering further by collaborating with Mayo Clinic Laboratories to perform testing that it doesn’t make sense to perform in-house. For example, there are tests that can be done within the laboratory but require substantial hands-on technical effort and are not time-sensitive. So they send this testing to Mayo, enabling their techs to spend their time performing tests such as allergens and celiac testing, which is much more efficient to perform in-house. It also keeps their techs happier, a critically important factor in a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult to find enough staff to keep up with demand. Most days, they have more business than they can handle.
Wolfer works with her Mayo Clinic Laboratories account and tech support team to determine which tests they should keep in-house, and which make sense to send to Mayo. This collaborative approach is what drew Wolfer to Mayo Clinic Laboratories. “We had several previous reference labs,” she said. “We went with Mayo because they weren’t going compete with us, and we liked what they offered in terms of support.”
With an expansive test menu and multiple lab locations, the laboratory is well positioned to support the needs of providers and their patients. This has resulted in growth for the lab and its outreach program.
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