It may seem like a no brainer, but some lab managers may need to be reminded that even the smallest change in their facility, particularly hospital-based labs, could disrupt the chain of information and inconvenience MDs at best, and at worst hamper patient care.
I'm not talking about relocating a water cooler. With new technologies being installed, new techniques introduced, and employee turnover at record-high levels, it's not uncommon for labs to play musical chairs with workstations and even entire specialties.
"The fast-paced world of the clinical laboratory encourages laboratory managers to evaluate and implement technological, process, and workspace changes in an effort to improve testing quality, turnaround time, and customer satisfaction," according to a paper in the current issue of ASCP's Lab Medicine.
Ever witness the chaos resulting from something as simple as relocating routine-test lab techs to another corner of the lab or moving the molecular pathology team down the hall?
"Testing backlogs are the least of our worries," said one tech working in a small hospital in Sidney, NY, whose facility underwent a small change in bench-top real-estate allotments.
Indeed, according to the paper, "even the simplest laboratory change may have a ripple effect throughout the entire hospital and/or medical system."
Aiming to limit the disruption, the paper describes seven steps designed to help lab managers disseminate information about lab changes "to the appropriate customer at the right time."
The steps are so simple — in what manager's mind hasn't it occurred that lab changes could confuse MDs and stymie patient care? — that I was surprised even to see a paper describing them.
According to the paper, which used as an example the relocation of a phlebotomy lab, managers must first "identify the laboratory change," "target [their] audience," "build a communication team," "develop a communication plan," "implement the communication plan," "evaluate the communication plan," and "modify and execute the revised communication plan."
As tedious and bureaucratic as it sounds, the method could at least hip green lab managers (yes, the Peter Principle applies to them, too) to the potential havoc such changes can wreak on the quality of care hospital-wide — especially when you keep in mind the well-worn fact that 70 percent of MDs' decisions are based on timely and accurate lab results.
Now, about that water cooler …
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