Efficiency Improvements Hospital Lab FAQs

1. How do you design a hospital lab layout?

Ensure that there are at least 4.5 feet of walkway at all times, and try to minimize walking. One way to do this is to group instruments together. Automated instruments can be organized together, as can manual instruments. Experts recommend using a spaghetti diagram to visualize walk patterns and minimize work. Cutout design boards can also help. The goal is for people to be able to move about the lab without obstructing one another. Similarly, staff should have no trouble finding the instruments they need, so the lab layout should be as intuitive as possible.

2. What are the design features of a hospital laboratory?

A good design maximizes workflow efficiency. For example, the highest-volume instruments should be placed right next to the receiving area. Automated tools should be directly adjacent to the tube system and receiving area, as well as the loading area. That way, technicians won’t have to leave the room to run automated tools. Essentially, the key is to minimize wasted effort and wasted motion. You’ll know that everything is working well when there are great hand offs between lab assistants and technical staff, rather than bottlenecks.

3. Why is hospital lab design important?

Efficiency and safety are pressing concerns for hospital labs, and god design enhances both. With regard to efficiency, a good lab design will reduce wasted movement and cut out time spent looking for tools. This, in turn, improves safety because people can be counted on to move about within their zones of action, rather than wandering around the lab. There are obvious revenue implications for efficient operations, but it’s also worth noting that staff appreciate being in a well-designed lab. In a time when it can be difficult to attract and retain healthcare professionals, keeping staff happy is especially important.

4. What are the important features of a hospital lab?

Every hospital lab should have systems in place to manage the workload coming into the lab. The workload needs to be spread out so staff aren’t unnecessarily rushed to finish everything all at once. The peak needs to be distributed as evenly as possible to keep people happy. Of course, the layout should be designed so that people can easily move about the lab and access the instruments they need without getting in one another’s way. 

5. How do you build a good hospital lab environment?

Workflows should be such that people don’t spend time wandering around looking for things. A good laboratory manager will put systems in place that minimize wasted time. The organization of the lab should be intuitive so that staff don’t have to work hard just to remember where everything is. Moreover, laboratory staffing should be planned out so that each individual is completing a similar amount of work, whether it’s the peak of the day or a less busy period. Staff should be able to focus on what they do best without feeling as though their time is being eaten up by non-valuable tasks.

7. How do you organize a hospital lab?

The first step toward hospital lab organization is workflow mapping. These should be maps for four distinct workflows: Specimen, People, Supplies, and Information. Evaluate the financial value of each workflow and use that metric to prioritize funding and resource allocation. Then, plan activities that string together next to one another to facilitate seamless transitions. Be sure to take the difference between daytime and nighttime work into account. Since it’s harder to find staff for the night shift, make sure that night staff aren’t being overworked, or they will leave. Workflow maps can make it easier to design and test alternative layouts and processes.

8. How do you run a successful hospital lab?

As with many organizations, continuous improvement is key, and performance measurement is the first step. Set goals, benchmarks, and targets, and try to measure your performance against those targets as much as possible. Whenever you can do so, communicate concrete expectations to staff. Motivate and inspire them to improve day in, day out. Show them you’re doing your part by experimenting with new layouts and trying to improve the methods and processes that make up lab operations. Don’t be afraid to try new things, and learn from things that don’t work without taking it personally.

9. What are hospital laboratory goals?

Safe, high-quality healthcare provision is at the heart of hospital laboratory operations. Often, in order to meet that goal, results have to be delivered fast. Patients and doctors often can’t afford to wait for results before beginning a round of treatment. And then there’s the business aspect of operations. Labs have to work efficiently and make the most of limited human and financial resources in order to contribute meaningfully to hospital operations. Process optimization, design changes, and continuous improvement are all key parts of leading a successful hospital lab.

10. Why is efficiency important in a hospital lab?

Many industries are struggling to find workers, and healthcare has been especially hard-hit by a staff exodus. Lab technicians are few and far between, and they will not tolerate a poorly-run establishment that forces them to waste time. If labs want to attract and retain qualified and competent lab techs, particularly for the night shift, they need to be efficient. Then, of course, there’s the business aspect of operations. Rising costs stemming from monetary inflation, labor shortages, and regulatory mandates have put pressure on hospital systems to consolidate and optimize every aspect of operations. Hospital labs must be run efficiently if they are to keep up with that movement.

11. How can I improve hospital laboratory efficiency?

There are two main ways to improve efficiency: change the way people work, and change the way processes work. On the people side of things, let lab assistants work at their full capacity. Sometimes, lab managers can have a tendency to micromanage lab assistants and restrict them to the simplest tasks. That simply isn’t necessary, and it’s absolutely inefficient. Let your capable assistants take on more responsibility and contribute fully to lab operations, and you’ll ease the burden of lab technicians. Then there’s the process side of things. Often, it can be easy to set up process silos. But if the chemistry department is only running at 40 percent, there’s no reason not to integrate chemistry operations with, say, hematology. That way, both people and equipment will be fully utilized at all times.

12. What are the key elements of planning a hospital laboratory?

Trial and error is important, but whenever possible, save your staff the time and energy by trying out alternative arrangements on a design board. One recommendation would be to use a spaghetti diagram to show walk patterns and test different layouts. The key is to avoid possible bottlenecks and group related tasks together. For both safety and efficiency reasons, it’s vital to leave space between instruments and provide at least 4.5 feet of walkway at all points. And, it’s important to note that planning doesn’t end after the laboratory opens. A good laboratory will continually adjust people, processes, and equipment to reflect changing needs. Sometimes, layout changes will be needed to maintain optimal efficiency during change.

13. What are hospital laboratory standards?

Hospital laboratory standards vary widely from state to state. Federal regulations outlined by agencies such as OSHA apply to all laboratories, but a number of other rules are more local. As a result, laboratory managers should consult with their hospitals’ experts to ensure that their operations are in keeping with regional policies. A team-based approach is appropriate to ensure that every standard is being met. This is especially true when complex equipment is being used, as each piece of equipment will have its own standards. Hands-on staff are typically the best ones to consult on equipment standards.

14. What should a hospital laboratory have?

Proper spacing is the key to seamless laboratory operations. Some labs will have more automated equipment, while other labs will primarily use manual tools. However, in every case, it’s crucial to ensure that the layout of the lab space is optimized for the specific mix of instruments and processes that the organization will carry out. In addition to the physical space and equipment, hospital laboratories should have systems and processes in place to manage workflow. Staff will not be happy if they are continually asked to rush in order to keep up with patient needs. Lab systems should distribute the workload so that it falls evenly as possible on staff. It’s especially important to keep night staff happy because it can be so much harder to staff laboratories at night.