The four most important things to consider when modernizing a laboratory

March 25, 2021

Anatomic pathology groups and clinical laboratory operators can either disrupt or be disrupted, and the key to sustainable growth and future success lies within their grasp. 

Choose the right laboratory information system (LIS) and revenue cycle management (RCM) solution, and they can move forward confidently into the future knowing that their laboratory operating platform has the flexibility and the capacity necessary to pivot and evolve with whatever change is coming next.

Choose the wrong solution, and they may be saddled with a system that limits growth potential and puts the operation in danger of becoming obsolete.

Thanks to an aging population and consolidation throughout the industry, there is an ever-increasing demand for labs to handle more cases even though the reimbursement per case is shrinking. To take advantage of the demand and thrive despite industry challenges like Medicare rate cuts, shifting regulations, increased compliance pressures and a workforce short on qualified technicians, labs need to proactively find and implement a solution that puts a premium on configurability, efficiency, interoperability, and transparency.

Configurability – It’s an old adage and it’s true. No two laboratories are alike. What’s best for one laboratory may not be best for another. When choosing a new solution, lab operators should first consider if the vendor is selling an “off the shelf” solution, or one that can be tailor-made to fit the unique needs of their lab. Is the solution agile and flexible?  Can it customize reports and effortlessly distribute them? Can it support and positively transform every workflow? Is it easy to configure and maintain? Does it have the capability to support a wide range of preferences from customers? Does the vendor have the domain expertise and best practices knowledge needed to keep the lab up-to-date with constant enhancements and upgrades to the platform? Does the vendor align with your lab’s needs and have an interest in your lab’s ability to scale and take charge of the marketplace? Does the platform provide an end-to-end solution that goes beyond core workflows while providing all the supporting modules a lab needs, including the financial ones? 

Efficiency – Today’s challenge for labs is to meet the increasing demand for more tests by increasing throughput. To not only meet the demand but to also put the lab in a position to scale, the LIS & RCM solution must optimize efficiency through automation and streamlined workflows. For efficiency to go up, tedious manual processes need to be automated. When shopping for a new solution, lab operators should prioritize one that greatly reduces sample preparation time and turnaround time while also drastically limiting lost and mislabeled samples. Does the solution have a powerful rule and automation engine? Is it a logic-based platform that minimizes clicks? Is it a user-friendly system built by laboratorians for laboratorians? Does it have a robust tracking system that’s built throughout the entire laboratory operating platform, providing end-to-end coverage that drastically reduces errors and lost specimens while boosting quality control? A lab is a busy place and the pathologist has an important job to do. By boosting efficiency, the pathologist can spend more time on diagnosis, which benefits both the customer and ultimately the patient.

Interoperability – To achieve interoperability, the LIS & RCM solution needs an open architecture and a powerful interface engine that can quickly and easily connect with any enterprise EHR, physician EMR, instrument or middleware. Lab operators should identify and implement a platform that will expertly handle the expansion of services into areas like digital pathology, genetics, and precision medicine. By providing modules for these areas, the solution can spur growth by opening up new lines of revenue for the business. Lab leaders should also go with a solution that seamlessly integrates with state registries for quality assurance and compliance purposes. With maximum interoperability, quickly scaling is possible.

Transparency - The movement away from fee-for-service and toward preventative care means labs need to shift how they do business. High patient deductibles and lower reimbursements from payers means that labs need to actively find better ways to collect the money owed to them. Write-offs for bad debt or rejected claims are no longer an acceptable part of doing business. Every dollar counts. Billing has traditionally been a backend process, but that needs to change. Lab operators should look for an operating platform that captures correct patient demographics on the front end while also checking for patient eligibility and insurance discovery in real-time at order entry. They should also implement a solution that gives them full control and transparency so they can track and collect all balances, including the small ones, with little to no manual assistance. Transparency should be a vitally important aspect of a lab’s revenue cycle, and it should also deliver valuable insight into all lab operations, providing top or low-level views of data across the entire operating platform. When armed with operational knowledge gleaned from business intelligence, lab leaders can identify potential bottlenecks in workflows and employee inefficiencies and make the needed adjustments.

Finding the right LIS & RCM laboratory operating platform can be a time-consuming and stressful endeavor, but labs that do their homework will be rewarded with a solution that eliminates pain points, boosts productivity, and fuels growth while providing full transparency and control.

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