For most health systems, laboratory standardization would be all but impossible without strong collaboration among stakeholders across the enterprise. So what's the best way to encourage this collaboration, and who, exactly, should step up and be involved? Here's some advice from several lab leaders who've relied on close teamwork for standardization success.
With experience in four different health systems that have undergone laboratory standardization, Goldsmith has strong ideas about what tends to work and what does not. Among the keys to success, she says, are having a “very clear directive from the top," and achieving “buy-in across the board" by asking clinical representatives from every discipline to participate in the process. And finally, Goldsmith notes, it's especially important to collaborate with those people who'll be in the new laboratory day to day: "I think what we often forget as leaders [that] nothing would work in the lab without our techs and the people that actually do the work."
In his experience, Myers says, it's important to have a “physician champion that works side by side with the clinical pathologist, but also is someone that is a peer of the ordering physicians." Clinicians are the laboratory's customers “at the end of the day," Myers adds, so collaborating with them is critical.
In her opinion, Barthel explains, standardization must include close collaboration with those in the C-suite. Laboratory leaders, she notes, should be attuned to those issues that worry executives the most, whether it's the need to improve patient care, the desire to drive better efficiencies, or problems related to spending and revenue. Throughout the standardization process, look for opportunities to demonstrate to the C-suite how the new laboratory model addresses those concerns. “I think it's important to have your lab team sitting on committees with other departments and other areas so that they are seen," she says. “Continually report out to leadership on your success and the progress that you're making."
According to Beasley, a consultant who has helped a number of healthcare organizations successfully navigate the challenges of standardization, collaboration with the technologists in your health system is absolutely mandatory. “One of the biggest points of failure I've seen is when you let the IT department lead the charge" in determining the testing solutions to integrate, she says. “IT cannot set the prioritization. They cannot affect the timeline. You have to help guide [the IT department] as to what are the top priorities and why, what is going to bring the biggest benefit to the health system."
Hattab agrees with Beasley that most standardization projects require close collaboration with IT. I personally believe that for a laboratory to be successful, you have to align your expectations with the larger IT team and be assertive and say, 'Well, this is what we need in the laboratory. These are our own priorities.'" Do that, Hattab says, and you'll have "a lot more success in explaining to them exactly the features that you need as opposed to naming, for example, a specific vendor or naming a specific solution that you're seeking. Make them understand why you need certain features—what functionalities are most important to you."
In the end, successful collaboration around standardization with the IT team should look just like it does with anyone else in your organization. It's all about having "conversations," Hattab stresses, and trying "to arrive at a common solution."
Current practices and challenges in the standardization and harmonization of clinical laboratory tests
By Hubert W Vesper, Gary L Myers and W Greg Miller