2020 Lab of the Year Runner Up: Norman Regional Health System’s lab emphasizes customer satisfaction

March 24, 2020
Since 1946, Norman Regional Health System (NRHS) has been serving consumers in south and central Oklahoma.

Operated by the Norman Regional Hospital Authority, a public trust, the system has two hospitals with a total of 387 beds, numerous outpatient locations, more than 3,500 staff members and 350 credentialed physicians.

The health system’s laboratory service has three lab locations, offering same-day results. It holds five CLIA certificates and three College of American Pathology (CAP) certificates. NRHS also has a lab-services outreach program, which consists of eight patient services centers and a courier fleet.

The lab staff is made up 136 total full-time employees and 36 part-time and PRN staff, and they perform approximately 1.6 million tests annually, including 650,000 for hospital patients and 930,000 for outpatients.

Customer Service

The cornerstone of Norman Regional Health System’s approach to customer service in the lab is a real-time patient satisfaction survey. The lab contacts patients by email, text or phone call within 24 hours of a visit and asks them to complete the two-minute survey.

Lab managers monitor patients’ survey responses daily, sending feedback to frontline staff via emails, daily huddle topics and one-on-one conversations. Managers also call patients who give lab services a score of less than an eight or leave an unfavorable comment.

In 2019, the lab kicked customer service up another level. It launched a formal training program to teach employees how to view their work from the perspective of patients. Using what is known as a service-recovery method, the program also taught lab employees how to respond to unhappy patients.

“Service recovery allows us an opportunity to change a dissatisfied patient into a loyal patient,” Calvin L. Bohanan, MHA, MT, lab director at Norman Regional Health System, wrote in his nomination letter for Medical Laboratory Observer‘s (MLO) Lab of the Year Award.


Normal Regional Health System takes productivity improvement seriously, monitoring trends for the lab department’s six cost centers on a daily and biweekly basis. The results also are correlated against monthly variance reports. Typically, all cost centers exceed 100 percent of their productivity goals.


To enhance teamwork, the NRHS lab emphasizes clear communication through a variety of methods, including daily huddles, daily leadership huddles with frontline staff, and wall boards. They also celebrate successes.

In addition to improving internal teamwork, the lab also has worked with other departments at NRHS.

For example, the microbiology and emergency departments worked together to implement a diversion method for drawing blood for cultures. Once the new system was in place throughout the hospital, contamination rates dropped from 4.5 percent to 1.91 percent, with a goal of reaching 1 percent. The two departments continue to meet biweekly to discuss issues with specimen integrity.

Education and Training

NRHS offers a variety of internal training programs and provides tuition reimbursement and scholarship programs for higher-education degree programs.

For example, the health system’s learning resource center sponsors in-person workshops and online courses. NRHS also offers a leadership development course in which students complete three assigned projects and 40 hours of classroom instruction to earn a certificate of completion.

Lab Inspections

After significant turnover in lab leadership, Norman Regional earned “disappointing results” from an on-site inspection in 2016. But after developing an internal peer-to-peer inspection program, the number of cited deficiencies in its 2018 on-site inspection decreased by 53 percent, compared with 2016.

In the internal inspection program, frontline staff were assigned to inspect peers, focusing on variations in practice and offering ideas for improvement.

“We expect continued improvement as all staff begin to understand the processes and practices that lead to better performance and documentation, resulting in higher quality throughout our lab system,” Bohanan wrote.

Strategic Outlook

Norman Regional’s lab department hired an outside consultant and has been evaluating proposals to increase its efficiency. Among those proposals is a plan to consolidate two main campuses and the lab operations into a single “core” lab located at Norman Regional HealthPlex, which currently includes a 168-bed hospital. The core location also would include pathology offices and digital pathology services. NRHS also offers lab services at its free-standing emergency department (FSED), located in nearby Moore, OK, and will add another FSED in south Norman, OK.