MLO names St. Luke’s University Health Network Laboratory Services 2021 Lab of the Year

March 26, 2021

Medical Laboratory Observer (MLO) named St. Luke’s University Health Network Laboratory Services Lab of the Year (LOY) for 2021.

Network Laboratory Services at St. Luke’s excelled in the criteria MLO staff and its editorial advisory board judged the nominees on, which are customer service, productivity, teamwork, education and training, strategic outlook, and lab inspections.

Located in Bethlehem, PA, the 12-hospital system treats patients in 11 counties in Eastern Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Easton, and across the border in Warren County, NJ.

Meanwhile, the 469 employees working in laboratory services perform more than 5 million tests per year through 10 rapid response labs (which serve inpatient units and emergency departments), one core lab and one specialty lab. Patient specimens are collected at 50 patient service centers and a mobile phlebotomy program. In addition, 14 pathologists – with specialties including dermatopathology and neuropathology – analyze more than 60,000 specimens annually.

The lab’s employees have worked tirelessly to improve customer service. One example is a mobile phlebotomy program, which the lab network staffs with 4.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees who draw blood samples in the comfort of patients’ homes. Although it was launched in 2017, the program took off in May 2020, after lab directors removed a $25 service fee, allowing the number of patient accounts to grow by 2,600.

Productivity is another area where the lab network has excelled. One example is the practice of alerting providers about critical values on lab tests. Lab managers worked with a team of physicians, nurses, information technology staff members, and telemedicine employees to craft a solution. They leveraged a HIPPA-compliant texting product, which allows the lab to notify providers of critical values through secure text messages. Once a provider acknowledges a text, the texting software interfaces with the electronic medical-records system to record the time stamp.

St. Luke’s also values education and training. For example, the lab outreach team is designing an accredited phlebotomy training program that is standalone; meaning, it is not connected to a college or technical school. The lab hopes to launch the program in the second half of 2021.

2021’s MLO Lab of the Year also named one runner up: U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine's (USAFSAM) Epidemiology Laboratory (Epi Lab), which is located at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, OH.

As the sole reference lab for the Air Force, Epi Lab’s staff does a lot of testing: 2 million tests per year through a menu of 130 assays. In addition to reference lab duties, the Epi Lab also provides infectious disease testing, which includes both SARS-CoV-2 and HIV testing.

St. Luke’s Laboratory Services and Epi Lab are featured in the April edition of MLO.

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