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Learn How a Laboratory Information System (LIS) Can Make Your Lab More Efficient

We live in a world where certain technologies have become part of our everyday lives, such as our cellphones. This is also the case for the Laboratory Information System (LIS) in today’s laboratory. An LIS is a vital means to help automate efficient laboratory workflow and function. This lab automation helps to improve overall lab operations and increase the lab’s ability to make valuable contributions to patient care, while simultaneously improving staff experience and motivation by reduction of manual steps. Below is a summary of some of the most valuable LIS attributes and associated benefits.

1. Lab integration enables faster access to patient results & ensures reimbursement

Your LIS sits between the EHR and your laboratory analyzers storing and sharing data to enable faster turnaround times (TAT) that allow providers to access results and treat patients more quickly. Connectivity between these systems allows test results to be shared and accessed across facilities in an automated manner. In addition to faster TATs, connected systems automate the reporting process and reduce associated paper and storage. Patient data is easily accessible and retrievable and can be monitored for trends that can be important in overall assessment of clinical status.

2. Standardized processes improve efficiency & reduce costs

Workflow automation and standardization are built into the LIS. Its inherent audit trails and sample tracking capabilities reduce manual errors and inconsistencies. Audit-tracking documents, user interactions, and time stamps each relate to patient sample processing and testing so that if there is any issue that needs to be investigated, it is easy to review the specific steps that were involved. In addition, sample tracking features include tools to organize and track laboratory samples throughout the testing continuum, making it easy to locate samples and to know where a sample is in the testing process.

3. Decision-support rules reduce errors & improve efficiency

Enabling decision-support rules that aid in the standardization of procedures and reduction of errors allows technologists to focus on the tasks that require more hands-on interaction. There are a multitude of areas across the lab where rules can improve processes. For instance, in the pre-analytical phase, tests can be auto-routed to specific referral labs based on insurance requirements, or orders without supporting diagnosis codes can be placed on hold. In the analytical phase, reflex testing rules can auto-order a secondary test based on initial test results, and results can be designated to transmit automatically to the EHR without intervention when they are acceptable. In the post-analytical phase, CPT codes can be automatically sent to a billing system upon test completion to ensure reimbursement, and results can be delivered to specific providers via the desired route.

Auto-verification rules

Auto-verification of results is one of the absolute, most timesaving, and beneficial undertakings that a laboratory can implement. Auto-verification uses decision-support rules to automate the release of acceptable patient results. Results that fall within the defined auto-verification parameters automatically release to the EHR without laboratory staff intervention. Auto-verification provides consistent test reporting with dramatic improvements in TAT and reduction in errors. Depending on your lab menu and patient population, up to 80% of results could qualify for auto-verification.

Billing rules

Having a billing interface and associated billing rules ensure capture of lab reimbursements. Rules can ensure that appropriate CPT codes, modifiers, and CPT II codes accompany lab tests to the billing system, thereby ensuring that claims have the required elements and reimbursements are not missed or delayed.

4. Performance metrics support quality goals & improve lab visibility

Large quantities of patient data that live in the LIS are available to help achieve quality goals, promote population health management, and close care gaps. You may configure automated reports to track key laboratory metrics on a consistent basis (e.g., utilization monitoring, staff productivity, and TAT tracking). The lab’s data is its most valuable asset, and the LIS can mine data that can be used to improve testing processes or to inform business decisions. Laboratory analytics can provide insights that can advance the lab’s visibility by enabling input into population health, laboratory stewardship, or value-based contracting initiatives. In addition, patient data can be analyzed for key trends that would not be apparent without data mining capabilities.

5. Task automation, audit tracking, & documentation boost inspection readiness

One of the greatest benefits of the LIS to lab staff is its ability to track qualitative and quantitative QC with Levey-Jennings graphs and Westgard Rules. Inspectors can view QC graphs on the LIS workstation, eliminating the need to print and store QC data. Multiple Levey-Jennings graphs can be viewed on one screen for comparison purposes and the required weekly QC review can be automated.

Standardized comments can be created for unacceptable specimens and rejected tests that can be assessed for trends through a rejected orders log. You can create error reports with corrective action comments to look for issues with certain tests or analyzers, and you can track remedial action reports by pre-analytic, analytical, and post-analytic as part of your quality assurance program. Lastly, you can track TAT for time-sensitive tests to uncover issues with testing or delivery of STAT tests.

6. Workflow optimization & task automation improves staff performance & satisfaction

Laboratory professionals often feel overworked and underappreciated and are constantly dealing with staff shortages and healthcare industry changes. Being continually asked to “do more with less” in a challenging career can lead to burnout and frustration. Especially this past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has created an even greater demand for qualified Medical Laboratory Scientists (MLS). By leveraging LIS tools and using your LIS to improve lab productivity, you can take some of the strain and pressure off lab staff and increase employee job satisfaction. In a time where we are feeling the shortage of trained MLSs more than ever, it is prudent to use every resource at hand.

Leverage Your LIS Tools to Improve Employee Satisfaction & Reduce Stress

Competition for well-trained MLSs is fierce due to laboratory professional shortages. To retain top employees, we need happy employees. Job satisfaction is tied to workload, recognition, and salary. In summary, the LIS may have more functionality than you realize. It can directly impact workload and automate manual procedures. Make sure that you are using it to its full capability for integration, workflow optimization, rapid result delivery, rules-based decision support, and error reduction. While the LIS cannot improve salaries, it can have positive influence on workload and provide support and data that can be used to gain more recognition and respect for the laboratory.