From volume to value: how the cloud optimizes lab operations and performance

Nov. 20, 2014

Whether your lab is knee-deep in the transition from “volume to value” or just beginning, one thing is certain: real-time knowledge is mandatory to succeed in today’s healthcare environment. 

Lab leaders are all too familiar with the endless volumes of provider, patient, and financial data trapped in various systems and spreadsheets across multiple departments. While the data exists, the power of this data to generate value and improve performance often remains unrealized because it’s difficult to access, organize, and apply. Clinical data gets buried in the LIS, client-facing reps communicate via email, and service staff members flag client issues on color-coded post-it notes. Meanwhile, billing and finance utilize entirely different systems that provide another sliver of the overall provider picture. These disconnected data siloes lead to internal miscommunication and inefficient processes that negatively impact providers and patients.

By bringing together disparate data into a real-time, holistic view of each provider and patient that is securely available anywhere on any Internet-connected computer or device, healthcare relationship management (HRM) illuminates what is happening across your laboratory and how your performance can be improved to personalize the healthcare experience. This real-time knowledge and ability to take action on critical findings, such as turnaround time (TAT) issues or customer service complaints, leads to internal accountability and consistency, resulting in better physician and patient experiences and increased value that can be measured and proven. 

Knowing exactly where to focus

HRM tracks live, important trends in real time and automatically surfaces critical issues so every lab employee knows exactly where to focus. For example, real-time alerts can notify individuals of changes in order volume, persistent billing issues with a given client, or TAT delays, and it can set employees in motion to address issues via role-specific tasks. At the same time, managers and executives are able to maximize the team’s productivity by gaining a clear view of where lab staff members are spending their time. 

Rather than getting static, outdated reports that often take hours or days to manually compile, all stakeholders are able to view real-time performance metrics that drive better decision-making at every level. From operations, to service, to finance, to outreach and sales, every department across the lab must be focused on delivering outstanding service and value. To accomplish this objective, all lab team members must be organized around the most important client needs and issues by gaining a comprehensive view of all provider and patient interactions in one readily accessible secure, online location.

Driving closed-loop accountability

Access to real-time knowledge enables labs to drive the right action, by the right person, at the right time, across every department with total coordination. Rather than hunting down critical information manually and learning about issues when clients complain, lab staff need to see every interaction—lab orders, results, phone calls, emails, and the like—associated with each client and be notified instantly of exceptions requiring attention. Equipped with a holistic view of client status, issues, and tasks sorted by priority, employees are empowered to confidently and proactively respond to the needs of every provider and patient. 

For example, client service leaders can manage and measure team performance by tracking issues by type, issue resolution status, root cause, corrective action, and resolution time. By proactively addressing client issues and driving closed-loop accountability, at-risk clients can be reduced, relationships expanded, and a culture of outstanding service and quality will emerge.

Delivering personalized service

The ability to proactively track and manage how the lab’s operations impact providers and patients at both summary and granular levels benefits clients who are seeking truly personalized service. In contrast to procedures that amount to fighting fires in a one-off manner, having a holistic view of every provider and a vehicle for efficient internal communication and collaboration ensures that providers receive the level of quality they require to be effective in treating patients. During a time of uncertainty related to consolidation, competition, and reimbursement cuts, delivering measurable value that delights the providers you serve is the key to growth.

Achieving real-world success

Leading labs of all kinds are embracing HRM in order to drive transformational change. 

Take, for example, US Health Group, (USHG) a provider of toxicology services with twelve locations across the United States and an aggressive expansion strategy underway. The organization has increased its client retention rate by 11% through an HRM initiative that transformed previously manual reporting into real-time insight and team collaboration. Reports that previously took nearly 40 hours each week to compile are now immediately available to anyone within the organization who is in need of the intelligence. 

Client managers across the country who spend most of their time visiting client offices are able to provide proactive, tailored service during an onsite visit by quickly looking up a clinic and identifying whether they should discuss any recent issues or concerns along with how their team has addressed those issues. 

When it comes to billing case management—a process that was previously a “black box” of uncertainty—USHG is now able to view a fully detailed, complete cycle that tracks issues from start, to resolution, to payment, including the lapsed time and specific activities between each step. 

USHG is also able to extend tailored guidance to the 80 collectors who are stationed across the country collecting samples. The USHG Collector Manager can view every collector and his or her quantity of samples sent and rejected and specifically why it was rejected. This level of insight has taken training and accountability to the next level, with everyone now communicating in a way that clearly benefits client relationships.

Within the hospital setting, St. Vincent Seton Specialty Hospital, an acute, long-term care hospital located in Indianapolis, has reduced its unnecessary testing by 6.5% due to a real-time view of the organization’s overall performance, individual physician performance, and holistic patient profiles that are readily accessed. Answers to critical questions—such as which panels are repeatedly being ordered despite several normal test results within the panel, and which physicians are ordering the highest number of unnecessary panels—are immediately available. 

For example, a physician may initially determine that a patient should receive a complete metabolic panel (CMP) in order to monitor kidney function. However, specific tests within the panel may repeatedly show as normal. Rather than continuing to test with the CMP, the operations team is able to use this intelligence in order to provide real-time feedback to the physician (e.g., they may suggest only utilizing a blood creatinine and BUN test) and then monitor how the physician modifies his or her approach after receiving this information.

The hospital can even see performance related to cost containment goals and average cost per patient per day in real-time. With the ability to keep a real-time pulse on utilization and cost metrics, St. Vincent Seton’s leaders are able to ensure that patients receive the highest level of care even as they positively impact the efficiency of their organization. At the same time, they are able to provide tailored, ongoing guidance to physicians. The end result is better patient care at a lower cost.

Assessing the critical role of the lab

As a central service provider to multiple entities across the continuum of care and the source of critical diagnostic data, labs hold the power to dramatically alter the way physician and patient service are approached by healthcare organizations and other stakeholders. While other industries have long had access to real-time information and a holistic picture of relationships, the arrival of healthcare cloud software makes it possible for labs to achieve a level of performance that results in a truly personalized healthcare experience for providers and patients.

Brad Bostic is Founder and Chief Executive Officer of, provider of the Healthcare Relationship Cloud. He has led multiple high-growth technology companies in the mobile, SaaS, and enterprise software markets.