Courier operations is a valuable part of the outreach team

An effective hospital laboratory outreach program works with many different types of clients.  Some of these clients operate within close proximity to the receiving laboratory and some are farther away. We all know that getting a specimen to a testing laboratory in a timely manner and at the acceptable temperature is paramount for patient care.

The patient is unaware how their specimen moves from collection to result. But when the courier logistics fail, that patient specimen may need to be recollected, the ordering physician does not get a timely result, and patient care is delayed – nobody wins.

One of the best partners to move specimens to the hospital testing laboratory is a reliable courier service. This service can be organization-owned, contracted with a third-party medical courier, or a hybrid of the two. Regardless, the client has limited knowledge about who manages that relationship; they only know that a courier comes to their facility at a defined time, picks up specimens, delivers them to the testing laboratory, and then the provider gets a result.

Courier employees interact regularly with hospital outreach clients and are a valuable asset in representing the hospital brand. Therefore, an effective partnership with the courier is essential to creating a positive patient experience.

Whenever possible, the hospital laboratory should have input to courier employee hiring and training. Transporting patient specimens to the laboratory is nothing like moving mail, medication, or supplies. There are many requirements to do this job well.

Consider the following tips to support an effective courier program.

  • Define clear expectations for behavior that is professional and representative of the organization. If there is an organizational code of conduct, share it with courier staff. 
  • Maintain specimen temperatures within set guidelines. Create a standardized process for employees so there is no variation and a reduced chance of errors that may impact patient care. As an example, failure to keep patient specimens frozen could result in many patients being redrawn.
  • Courier leadership should be aware of any client issues. Unique issues may arise at any time, such as weather, traffic delays, car trouble, or building access issues. Drivers should know in advance how to handle these scenarios.
  • Communicate published courier arrival times to each client. Any deviation from the routine will create a downstream impact on all other clients, impacting service and delivery of these specimens to the receiving laboratory. A realistic courier pick-up schedule is essential so that the client has specimens prepared for when the courier arrives and the courier can “pick up and go.”
  • Adhere to all traffic laws and client-specific instructions, such as parking, building access, and defined specimen pick-up instructions.
  • As a representative of the laboratory, the courier may learn if a client is having service issues with the outreach laboratory and should communicate relevant information to their leadership team in order to manage the client relationship. As the eyes and ears of the laboratory, the courier is an important laboratory representative and advocate.

The courier service that is used to transport patient specimens is incredibly valuable. The outreach laboratory should ensure that they have the necessary tools and equipment, policies, procedures, and management support in order to be successful.

Everyone wants to do a great job and can only be successful if they have adequate laboratory support. The courier is a valuable part of the entire team.

Ellen Dijkman Dulkes

Ellen Dijkman Dulkes is an Outreach Solutions Strategist for MCL. She is a medical technologist and has over 35 years of progressive professional growth within the laboratory. She enjoys meeting new people and helping laboratories to grow their outreach business.