How clinical lab data can boost hospital operating margins

Clinical labs are performed throughout the care continuum and provide clinicians with critical information that affect a wide array of medical decisions.

In fact, 75 percent of all healthcare interventions require lab tests to support diagnoses and treatment plans, and up to 80 percent of a hospital EMR is composed of lab data and related information, according to Chi Solutions, an Accumen company.

With this in mind, more effective utilization of lab testing and reducing unnecessary tests will be a critical part of eliminating wasteful spending and improving value as the healthcare industry transitions from fee for service to value-based care delivery models.

Jeff Myers, vice president of consulting at Chi Solutions, and Denise Irons, director of laboratory information systems at Springfield, Mass.-based Baystate Health, spoke at the Becker's Hospital Review 2nd Annual CIO/HIT + Revenue Cycle Conference in Chicago about how hospitals can use lab data to reach their cost reduction and revenue growth goals.

Here are four key points from the speakers' presentation.

1. Mr. Myers encourages hospitals to track productivity and supply cost metrics at the organization and department level, utilizing laboratory information system test volume, payroll hours and expense information. These results should be reviewed on a consistent basis and benchmarked against similar entities and prior performance. The end goal in doing this is to help the organization identify where it can reduce costs.

2. Mr. Myers believes hospitals that have not yet done so should also implement a patient blood management program. Such programs can improve clinical outcomes by eliminating unnecessary transfusions and the health risks associated with them.  

3. Additionally, Mr. Myers said hospitals should track the cost per lab test to support contract negotiation efforts. He encouraged hospitals to track lab tests with order, collect, in-lab and result timestamps to monitor all tests at the accession level.

"Reducing the cost of necessary purchases — like needles and tubes — by renegotiating contracts and through better management of inventories, hospitals can save by up to 30 percent," Mr. Myers said.

4. Ms. Irons provided examples of laboratory revenue growth at Baystate Health, which is helping drive positive operating margin through its 41 lab collection sites. The growth in revenue was stimulated by providing convenient pathology test/management services to physicians, hospitals and other healthcare services throughout Massachusetts.

"One key element of growing a successful laboratory outreach program is the ability to quickly and nimbly implement EMR interfaces that transmit accurate insurance and diagnosis code information with lab orders," Ms. Irons said.


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