The seven S’s of connectivity impact


In a world where many of our personal and professional lives rely on digital tools, it is easy to assume that “going digital” is always the best option. But is it? What about for your laboratory outreach program?

The decision to continue to operate with a manual paper process or to invest in an electronic solution will have a significant impact on your operations. Each organization needs to weigh the option of electronic connectivity for themselves to determine the best path for their outreach program.

Below are some possible impacts of these options on different aspects of laboratory business:



Registering and processing specimens by hand is time-consuming and stressful for personnel when the number of specimens arriving throughout the day fluctuates. A best practice recommendation is to parse out your courier drop-offs as much as possible to keep the flow of specimens steady, rather than an influx at certain times.

The effort to start up an electronic platform, troubleshoot, and complete ongoing maintenance requires a huge investment of time by the IT team; however, having an electronic solution can streamline operations by eliminating previously manual processes.



A manual process is time-consuming. Missing information on the requisition or inadequate staffing have the potential to delay specimen processing, thereby presenting a possible threat to a specimen’s validity. 

Changing a manual and time-consuming process into an automated and electronic one will reduce the amount of time a specimen is held during the registration and processing steps, making the personnel more efficient and the process more streamlined.



It is inevitable that operating with paper processes will limit your outreach business’ ability to grow. Many manual methods that began as a way to “make do” in the beginning are allowed to persist, eventually becoming the burdensome processes that reduce staff efficiency and limit future growth potential.

Utilizing an electronic option for outreach allows your processes to scale up as your business grows. The platform’s ability to handle an increased number of clients and specimens is a benefit to consider.



Depending on where your laboratory obtains its paper orders, creating and printing customized requisitions could create additional costs. However, a paper-based method has a low cost of entry and allows for an instant and nimble response for onboarding new customers.

One of the largest limiting factors to an electronic process can be the financial investment required for items such as a middleware to connect your customers’ systems, the cost of license and maintenance fees, and the cost of initial implementation. Conversely, providing connectivity to your clients has become an expectation in the marketplace so, though costly, may win you more customers overall.



Using paper requisitions provides you the opportunity to customize the forms for specific providers, including only those tests and panels that you offer. These can reduce provider confusion and incorrect orders, boosting volumes and revenue.

Electronic test menus can inadvertently contain test choices from commercial labs, thereby introducing opportunities for leakage to your outreach program and decreasing sales. It is a best practice to prioritize your laboratory’s test menu above the competition in the display options or eliminate options that are not your own testing.



Your organization may utilize non-clinical staff to order lab tests from a paper requisition at the time of registration. This often leads to incorrect selection, testing delays, and dissatisfied providers and patients. Every laboratory knows the pain point of having an incomplete requisition. Resolving these problems is time-consuming and can delay the specimen collection procedure, adversely affecting patient care and provider satisfaction.

While building tests for an electronic platform, you may be able to insert clinical relevance questions that appear while ordering. Having these questions appear in real-time as the provider is ordering will eliminate the delay experienced with a paper process when a provider is called for additional information.



Result delivery can be difficult with a manual process due to the unreliability of methods, whether fax, mail, or portal delivery. They can be delayed due to power issues, lack of paper, incorrect fax numbers, and a host of other reasons. Continuing to resend results takes a productive staff member away from other duties.

Electronic result delivery can occur seamlessly in the background of lab operations. When providers receive results directly into their electronic system, their level of satisfaction with your laboratory will increase.

Whether you choose to invest in an electronic solution to support laboratory outreach or continue to use a paper process, each option should be evaluated carefully so you select the one most likely to help you reach your outreach goals.

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.