Your Laboratory's Best Kept Secret


An effective laboratory outreach program can unlock a wide array of benefits for a health system and its laboratory. These benefits impact multiple parts of the organization including clinical, operational, and financial.

Every day, hospital laboratories struggle for dollars to meet the challenges of decreasing reimbursement and rising costs. How are they expected to survive (or possibly even thrive)? There is an option utilized by few but available to all. What is this best kept secret? Laboratory outreach.

In outreach, a laboratory’s services become externally focused rather than only concentrating on the patients in hospital beds. It is the opposite of traditional lab medicine. Outreach shows us how it is different. It is entrepreneurial. It is intentional. It is effective.

Increase patient traffic

If patients are bypassing your draw site to get blood drawn elsewhere, begin by looking at why.

  • Does another lab offer better hours? More convenient locations?
  • Is the wait time shorter?
  • Can the patient schedule their own appointment?

Gain provider loyalty

For a successful outreach program, it is vital that your community’s providers look to your laboratory’s services first. To achieve this, you must separate yourself from others. Set up your providers with what they are used to — but do it better.

Brag about what makes your lab the obvious choice.

  • Is it a faster turn-around time?
  • Multiple courier pickups?
  • Seamless electronic medical record integration?
  • Personalized customer service?

With your organization’s employed or affiliated providers, capitalize on “keeping it in the family” while giving the patient and provider the most satisfying experience possible. Emphasize differentiators, such as having a person answer the phone to address questions and issues rather than using an automated phone tree. Remind them that you have next-level service and quicker results because you are located just down the road.

Expand your test menu

While onboarding new providers as outreach customers, inquire about their favorite test panels, ordering patterns, and specialty requests. Consider expanding your test menu to incorporate those tests rather than sending them to a reference laboratory. This will allow you to provide better service to your providers as well as capture revenue you haven’t before.

The most cost-effective road is to expand your current testing platforms.

  • What assays can you add?
  • What high-demand tests should you consider in-sourcing?
  • Are there low-volume tests you can discontinue and send out instead?

Lower cost by maximizing capacity

Operating an outreach program allows you to maximize the efficiency of the hospital laboratory staff and equipment, guaranteeing the most cost-effective use of both. By capitalizing on the most commonly ordered tests, you have generated additional outreach specimens that can be easily incorporated into the main workflow of the laboratory.

This is especially true of laboratories with automation. The laboratory is able to handle the additional workload while often maintaining the same number of technical staff, ensuring you are getting the most bang for your buck.

Hospitals that operate an outreach program can spread the overhead across a wider breadth of testing, thus lowering the overall cost per test of the entire department. With the increased testing volumes that outreach can bring, it also places the hospital laboratory in a negotiating position when it comes to lower reagent and supply pricing.

Look to laboratory outreach

Current challenges require laboratory leaders to think and act outside the box of traditional methods. No longer can hospital laboratories wait for testing to come to them. They must be proactive and search in every corner for hidden dollars. Laboratory outreach is an effective way to do that.

Brianne Newton, MS, MT(ASCP)

Brianne Newton joined the Outreach Team in March of 2022 and lives in the North Texas area. Over the past 20 years, she has served in various laboratory roles including: laboratory section supervisor, MLT program director, and lab outreach manager. She also led her organization’s laboratory services through the COVID-19 pandemic as the corporate laboratory director. When not working with outreach clients, she enjoys travel photography, reading, and Tex-Mex. She is married with twin daughters.