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The clinical laboratory is an indispensable component of a well-functioning healthcare system or hospital. Laboratories truly provide the keys to prevention, diagnosis and management of health and disease.

Unfortunately, many successful laboratories struggle to identify and communicate the myriad ways in which they add value to the hospital system. Consequently, the laboratory workforce often goes unrecognized, and labs may find it difficult to differentiate themselves in a crowded field of service providers.

By fully understanding and articulating the value of your laboratory, you can:

  • Build a stronger, more united laboratory team
  • Elevate the laboratory’s profile within the larger hospital system
  • Effectively communicate the laboratory’s value and priorities to hospital leadership
  • Garner respect within the pathology and laboratory community
  • Effectively expand your lab’s outreach services
  • Increase public and patient awareness of the medical laboratory’s vital role in health care
Consider these three frameworks through which you can determine and articulate the worth of your lab:

1. Value to the Health System

2. Value to Operations

3. Value to Patients

1. Value to the Health System

These metrics are the fundamental data points that communicate your value to the C-suite. Some aspects of your value to the health system are easily quantifiable, such as the revenue your lab brings in, while other factors, like supporting other hospital designations, are less obvious.

When assessing your laboratory’s value to the health system, don’t forget to include:

  • Revenue
  • Costs
  • Outreach visits
  • Patient draws
  • Margins
  • Supporting other hospital designations

2. Value to Operations

Next, consider the ways in which your laboratory adds operational value. You may, for example, highlight the number of tests your lab processes annually. Another way that laboratories provide value to operations is by reducing a patient’s length of stay (LOS) through efficient and effective testing.

When determining your laboratory’s value to operations, consider: 

  • Number of tests processed
  • Number of orders
  • Number of samples
  • Total patients served
  • Reducing patient LOS
  • Reducing test overutilization

3. Value to the Patient

Finally, labs obviously and undeniably provide value to the patient community. It is not uncommon, for example, for physicians to require a lab result before they are able to make a crucial treatment decision.

Success of laboratory practices and procedures can be measured by:

  • Percentage of EMR based on lab results
  • Percentage of clinical decisions based on lab tests
  • Number of units transfused
  • Number of outreach visits
  • Reducing patient LOS
  • Improving quality-of-life outcomes

Recognizing Additional Ways the Lab Adds Value

Because the laboratory is such an integral part of the larger healthcare system, there may be a number of other, more nuanced, ways that your lab positively impacts the hospital, operations and the patient community.

Crucial services contributed by the lab may include:

The laboratory team often provides baseline and subsequent regularly scheduled testing as part of the hospital’s wellness program. 

Participating in health fairs is an excellent way to increase the visibility of the lab and promote blood donation. You may also use this environment to offer point of care testing for things like anemia, cholesterol and glucose.

Many labs offer a comprehensive menu of laboratory-based and rapid substance abuse testing options to meet the hospital’s needs. 

Prompt and efficient lab testing procedures lead to reduced LOS for many patients. 

Consider the ways in which your lab strengthens and optimizes testing in order to reduce overutilization.

Effective laboratory practices have been shown to increase quality-of-life outcomes related to physical health, mental health, social health and functional health.

The lab is essential for tracking and responding to emerging infectious diseases, detecting antimicrobial resistance and recognizing potential agents of bioterrorism.

Laboratory services allow patients, doctors and health organizations to monitor chronic diseases, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and asthma, in primary care.

Leverage Your Value, Become a Leading Laboratory

The Joint Commission and the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) have combined forces to develop the Leading Laboratories recognition program. Leading Laboratories is separate from Joint Commission accreditation; it is designed to help exceptional labs distinguish themselves among medical laboratory colleagues, with hospital administration and in the larger community.

The Leading Laboratory program is built around four foundational pillars:

  1. Promoting laboratory visibility
  2. Elevating quality outcomes
  3. Supporting professional development
  4. Cultivating trusted leadership
All Joint Commission accredited laboratories are eligible for the Leading Laboratories program.

Next Steps: Build a Strategic Plan

You’ve identified and articulated your lab’s value. Now what?

Consider developing a strategic plan and associated goals! Are there areas in which you can increase your laboratory’s value to the health system, operations and patient community?

Your lab’s strategic plan:

  • Serves as a roadmap
  • Defines the direction in which your lab will grow
  • Solidifies tangible goals
  • Defines priorities — what we do and what we won’t do
  • Guides day-to-day decisions — where we invest resources of time, people and money
  • Includes a framework for evaluating progress
  • Allows labs to pivot if a specific approach is not working
Remember: your laboratory’s goals should always align with your health system’s strategic plan.