Understanding the Importance of Real-Time Analytics in the Modern Clinical Laboratory
November 21, 2023
We all know that pathology groups and clinical laboratories (molecular and reference) collect a mountain of data daily. From patient demographics to test results and everything in between, data is collected as specimens are accessioned and processed, and lab reports are generated and distributed.
This data is typically collected and stored securely within a laboratory information system, or LIS system. Traditionally, the LIS system (sometimes also referred to as pathology software) has been very good at collecting and storing lab informatics, but not so good at providing easily discernible real-time data to aid laboratory operations with the simple push of a button.
Fortunately, that status is changing as modern and full-featured lab information systems now support data mining, a process by which a lab can analyze its internal data to make more informed business decisions and improve lab operations.
Data mining has gained importance as labs across all testing disciplines search for new ways to improve efficiency and productivity without adding to skyrocketing operating costs.
The best lab managers are looking inward and using advanced lab information system technology to put the data they’ve already gathered to work for them, using it to gain insight into their operations, insight followed by a corresponding action to improve the business.
So now that we’ve established the importance of data mining and real-time analytics, we’ll delve into how widgets and dashboards represent the data pulled from the database of modern and feature-rich medical LIS.
Widgets are small, stand-alone applications that are built to filter and display real-time lab information, and dashboards are the visual representations of this information that can be tailored to fit the role, the user, or the specific lab department.
LigoLab’s Solution for Pathology Lab Software and Lab Informatics
LigoLab Informatics Platform is an example of a modern pathology lab software that supports real-time analytics. The platform includes a dashboard engine that enables lab information system administrators to configure various dashboard widgets (tables, pie, bar, line charts, etc.) based on out-of-the-box statistical reports, custom scripting, and custom SQL queries.
“Once configured, all LIS system users can add pre-built widgets to their personal dashboards, choosing from the hundreds of dashboard widgets and layouts available within the medical LIS platform,” said Allison Still, LigoLab’s LIS Product Manager.
Here are some examples of dashboard widgets configured within the platform.:
Lab Operators Want Real-Time Reporting from Their Lab Information Systems
Often, as technology advances, an application that started out as a “nice to have” can quickly become a “need to have,” and that’s the case with data mining within laboratory information systems.
To learn more, we recently spoke with Joseph Guido, an Anatomic Pathology Consultant who is intimately familiar with pathology lab software and how the right LIS system supported by the right LIS company can help a lab remove its deficiencies and grow efficiently.
“Lab operators want to see real-time reporting by feeding data into laboratory information systems that have this type of functionality,” he said. “I think it’s becoming a standard across the industry. Everyone wants to be able to mine their LIS system database for insights into their operations, be it from a high level or from a more granular perspective.”
Guido continued by suggesting that the sky is the limit for lab informatics with a modern lab information system, with the lab and the LIS company working together to refine the design that best represents the data graphically.
“Generally speaking, most dashboard widgets start with a conversation between the lab and LIS company developers that support the lab information system. It can be as simple as a design on a piece of paper that’s submitted,” Guido said.
Practical Applications for Dashboard Widgets in Today’s Clinical Lab
As shown in the examples above, dashboard widgets provide a snapshot of the lab’s efficiency and productivity while also enabling lab managers to identify potential issues and take action before it’s too late.
For instance, dashboard widgets can assist with client services by tracking client accounts and identifying any negative trends.
“With this tool, the lab is alerted to any significant change in volume over a given amount of time with a client,” Guido said. “It’s better to know of a problem in real-time rather than finding out about an issue and an unhappy client a month later. With real-time data available to the client services team, they can proactively pick up the phone, figure out the issue, and resolve it.”
Here are a few other scenarios where dashboard widgets can make a positive difference while monitoring clinical lab workflows:
- Sample Status: A widget can be created to track the status of each sample from order inception to specimen processing to reporting. In this scenario, the lab gets a clear picture of the number of specimens processed and the time taken to complete each step in each testing workflow. If there are identified bottlenecks, adjustments to workflows can be made.
- Turnaround Time: A widget can be created to track the start time and end time for each test or assay run by the lab. The data gathered can then be compared with target times. If a particular test consistently takes longer to complete than expected, the lab can then drill down into the data to find out why.
- Quality Control: A widget can be created to track quality control metrics, thereby alerting lab managers to any potential issue with test accuracy long before it can negatively impact patient care.
- Equipment Maintenance: A widget can be created to track the status of laboratory equipment and identify when maintenance may be needed. Properly maintained and serviced equipment reduces downtime and improves efficiency.
- Resource Utilization: A widget can track data on test volumes to identify times when human resources may be overburdened or underutilized, allowing lab managers to adjust staffing as needed.
Don’t Forget About Laboratory Billing
Laboratory revenue cycle management (RCM) is another important area where dashboard widgets can have a major impact on both productivity and revenue. By capturing key lab billing metrics (KPIs) and then analyzing them, the lab's billing department can be alerted to any discrepancies that may be affecting days in accounts receivable, the net collection rate, and the denial rate.
Here are a few other examples where tracking metrics with dashboard widgets can positively affect the laboratory billing process:
- Insurance Claims: Dashboard widgets can be used to monitor the status of insurance claims (including the number of claims submitted, and the number of claims denied), plus the average time it takes to receive payment.
- Charge Capture: Dashboard widgets can help labs monitor their charge capture rates (the percentage of billable services that they actually bill for) and stop revenue leakage.
- Pricing: Dashboard widgets can also be used to monitor trends in pricing for services, such as the average reimbursement rate for each test on the test menu. This pricing information can help labs adjust their pricing strategies to be more competitive and maximize revenue.
Now that we’ve demonstrated the importance of dashboard widgets, let’s talk about how long it takes to go from a concept to a reality in LigoLab’s LIS software environment. According to Still, the project turnaround time is relatively quick.
“Once mapped out, the actual build goes fast,” she said. “Our experienced developers take the time to first understand the project, and then the build starts. Usually, there’s a bit of back and forth between the lab and the developer before the design is finalized and added to the lab’s production environment.”
Advanced Laboratory Information Systems Modernize All Lab Operations
Interested in learning more about dashboard widgets? Curious to see how LigoLab Informatics Platform, the only all-in-one LIS & RCM laboratory solution out there, can help your clinical or pathology lab modernize and grow efficiently? Then fill out the form below to set up a brief call with a LigoLab Product Specialist.