Our subject matter experts, who are nationally recognized in their field include CPA’s, MBA’s, Licensed Medical Scientists (ASCP), and a team of experienced laboratory business professionals who are best positioned to assist hospitals, health systems, attorneys, and investment bankers successfully manage healthcare industry challenges in the lab sector.
When a company makes the wrong strategic decision, everyone can tell that something has gone wrong. According to a recent study, strategic mistakes can cost a company as much as three percent of profits. This means that every important decision needs evaluation. Health care advisory services are there to see that the right methodologies and processes are in place for every important strategic move.
Good due diligence really is the difference between success and failure. That won’t be a surprise to any lab director; clinical laboratory operations are always grounded in quality management. Business operations should have that same solid foundation. Just as with quality management, it’s helpful to be able to call in other experts to review key decisions. That is what advisory solutions offer.
A good hospital lab consulting firm should have well over a hundred years of experience to offer its clients. Moreover, its staff should have highly regarded certifications and degrees, such as CPA, MBA, and ASCP. To get a solid mix of expertise, a consulting company needs to have people from a variety of backgrounds, including the academy. Yet authentic feedback may be the most important quality to look for. A consultant needs to be able to communicate directly about the issues that health systems need to fix if they want to achieve their strategic targets.
There are alternatives to hospital lab consulting. If people already have the expert knowledge needed to audit lab operations, then there may be no need to engage an advisory company. On the business side of things, the same can be said for process improvement efforts. Hospitals may have subject matter experts who specialize in boosting the efficiency of health care operations, or they may hire them.
However, it’s worth noting that hospital lab consulting reviews are done on many different companies. This allows consultants to benefit from learning across multiple clients. While lab professionals focus on clinical operations, consultants can gain up-to-date knowledge across a wide variety of disciplines. This enables them to bring useful knowledge to bear on a wide variety of challenges.
For example, one client came to Accumen after it had attempted to capitalize on an opportunity to boost revenues by $20 million. Executives were excited at the prospect of significantly increasing profits and winning the trust of new customers. However, the company did not submit its plan to a rigorous due diligence process. By the end of the initiative, it had lost almost all trust with its employees, providers, and partners. Without expert review, even the most attractive opportunity can lead a company into a very bad situation.
As the health care space faces increased regulation and competitive pressures, many health systems are trying to build out lab networks. The idea is to capitalize on economies of scale and simplify the requirements needed for continued regulatory approval.
It is much harder for a small organization to shoulder the burden of administrative and compliance work than it is for a larger organization to do the same. This is one reason why mergers and acquisitions have accelerated across the health care industry in recent years. That trend is shaping every level of operations, down to smaller units like clinical laboratories.
As a result, there is a huge opportunity for any clinical laboratory that can earn a “preferred lab” designation from a health system. Preferred labs receive far more orders from health systems because they have met certain quality and efficiency standards. These are the labs that stay open, and maybe even get bigger, as smaller labs are shuttered in the name of efficiency.
In order to achieve preferred lab status, lab services need to maintain cutting-edge standards across a wide range of tests. Clinical laboratory consultants can help labs navigate this complex landscape to ensure that they have the most compelling test menu to offer. It’s important to be able to take account of trends in public health to shape lab services and attain the best hospital lab affiliation possible.
Like many other health care organizations, clinical laboratory operations must generate revenue to maintain themselves. This means that the fee schedule for laboratory services is of paramount importance. Though fees are in large part dependent on Medicare decisions, there is much that medical laboratory managers can do to enhance their revenue and reduce costs. A comprehensive laboratory management program will tackle reimbursement head-on to ensure the long-term viability of laboratory services.
Hospital lab reimbursement can be a lengthy and complicated process requiring administrative expertise to navigate. For that reason, it’s important to have a clear and well-defined policy around clinical laboratory fees. Leaders should take everything from antibody testing to surgical and implantable devices into account as they plan. Every lab should have an implantable device management program in place to optimize reimbursement performance.
It’s safe to say that running a medical laboratory requires a mix of scientific, health care, and business expertise. Medical plans vary in their reimbursement policies, and both state and federal governments influence fee schedule spreads in a number of ways. This means that hospital lab reimbursement can be especially challenging. Nonetheless, it is a vital component of hospital laboratory management.
Of course, reimbursement only covers half of the hospital lab ROI financial picture. The other half, hospital laboratory costs, is a crucial part of the story. Providing laboratory services like cancer screening, diagnostic imaging, and testing efficiently will have a direct effect on the bottom line. Though it can be unexciting, hospital admission workflow efficiency also matters here. Hospital workflows can be the difference between profit and loss in a challenging market environment.
As hospitals continue to invest in technology, they’ve invested in tools such as digital patient portal functionality and secure messaging to reduce the cost of communicating laboratory findings to patients.
Many of these tools are also used to facilitate easier communication within health care organizations. A doctor who recommends diagnostic imaging will need to prescribe orthopedic surgery or physical therapy based on the results, so direct communication with the hospital laboratory will only enhance the care that their patients receive.
On the administrative side of things, hospital laboratories are also fine-tuning their accepted insurance price estimates to better forecast costs and income. Today’s data analytic systems are now making it easier to improve laboratory operations than ever before. Moreover, many are upgrading their revenue cycle management system, or RCM system, offerings. RCM solutions help hospitals manage the patient journey from order through to payment, giving high-level insight and reducing potential issues. Today, many are also utilizing automation to reduce the administrative burden on employees. In combination, these tools are helping hospital labs increase ROI.
Experts agree that efficient hospital lab space planning is key to good practice. Minimizing steps not only enhances the efficiency of lab operations, it also keeps staff happy and energized throughout long daytime and nighttime shifts. Laboratory design leaders are recommended to use a spaghetti diagram to display everyone’s walk pattern and test different layouts. Cutout design boards can also be a great way to visualize a new layout. Believe it or not, technicians appreciate it when management is continually experimenting with better ways of doing things. Who doesn’t want to work for a team that’s constantly getting better?
Especially when it comes to the biological and radioactive material that laboratory technicians often work with, space planning is key to safety. At least 4.5 feet of walkway are required to ensure that people don’t collide and spill sensitive material. Biomedical laboratories should take space planning seriously as a component of the physical containment of hazards.
In a well-designed lab, technicians don’t spend time walking around looking for things. A clear system of organization and categorization will make it easy for everyone to quickly find what they are looking for. One way to achieve this goal is to use stocked benches. Place two bins on the bench of each item that is needed. When a bin is empty it will go to resupply, and technicians will simply draw from the other. That way, they never run out of the item.
Hospital lab strategy, like that for any business, must adapt flexibly to change. Strategic planning has to take account of changes in the workforce, in equipment, and in demand. Being wedded to one layout for too long will impact lab stewardship and lead to frustrated staff. Instead, be willing to change health care delivery to meet changing needs and uphold patient safety.
Before you make changes to the layout, mock it up. You can find a blank space and lay out cutouts of each instrument for a walk-through. This might seem like an unusual way to do lab testing, but it can help your team run a great hospital laboratory. It also might not always work out, and that’s OK. A good hospital lab will be open to experimentation, and not everything will work the first time. It is worth spending a few hours on pilots to find the best possible solution to a lab layout puzzle.
In addition to internal optimization, lab outreach programs can help meet the hospital’s strategic priorities. The higher profile your lab keeps, the easier it will be to attract talented technicians and promising assistants. Health systems are struggling to find and retain skilled employees, so if your outreach programs bring in a handful of people every few years, they’ll pay for themselves. Of course, having a good business plan and driving strategy execution will help as well.
Weighted RVU’s for all laboratory tests, as defined by the American Medical Association CPT Terminology and considers pre-analytical processes, testing platforms, automated versus manual testing, new CPT codes, testing requirements, reimbursement, and cost of testing equals the Accumen Test Complexity Index (TCI).
The TCI is analogous to the Hospital Cost Case Mix Index (CMI), which is a relative value assigned to a diagnosis-related group of patients in a medical care environment. The CMI is used by U.S. hospitals in determining the allocation of resources to care for and/or treat the patients in the group. The laboratory should use the TCI in determining the allocation of labor, supply, and other costs in the laboratory, as well as test mix changes and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
Biggest Determinants in Managing Cost per Test in the Laboratory
Clinical labs affect 70 percent of medical decision making and touch every aspect of healthcare. Optimizing the lab as an asset can provide a consistent revenue stream at a healthy margin. Explore five key takeaways of optimizing your lab as a strategic asset.