Having it Your Way

A family of customized lab IT solutions help a large and growing provider rise above today's challenges

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With more than 55 patient service centers, five full service laboratories, major hospital affiliations, an ambitious physician office phlebotomy program and an extremely broad test menu, Clinical Laboratory Partners (CLP) is thriving in today's challenging lab environment. True to our name, CLP -- the largest CT-based laboratory system -- takes pride in our partnership with referrers and customers throughout the state and is committed to delivering customized services fine-tuned to their needs. To accomplish all this, CLP relies on a strong partnership with our IT solution provider and a family of products that are equally customized to support the lab's business goals.

It is no exaggeration to say that superior IT infrastructure is mandatory to help tackle today's laboratory business complexities as well as to comply with new regulatory, operational and competitive demands. Our laboratory outreach system (LOS) and billing software in particular, which are continually updated to meet our evolving needs, have played a crucial role in CLP's success.

An independent, full-service clinical laboratory, CLP was founded in 1998. We provide broad expertise in clinical chemistry, cytology, hematology, microbiology, molecular genetics, anatomic pathology and transfusion medicine. CLP medical directors are nationally recognized specialists in pathology and laboratory medicine and are assisted by board-certified pathologists. We are the reference lab for Hartford Healthcare System and its five separate hospitals. One of the fastest growing laboratories in New England, CLP has built a reputation for delivering quality service by meeting or exceeding all clinical standards.

It's indisputable that, in today's highly competitive and ever-changing medical environment, labs need every available edge -- staff efficiency, automation, lean business processes, personalization of services and, of course, prompt and accurate results for reporting and billing. Both our LabConnect LOS and SurroundLab AR billing systems are custom-built with this in mind to support our complex and evolving business model. In contrast with off-the-shelf and even semi-customized IT solutions, our solutions do not force CLP to wait for new software release or feature introductions on the vendor's schedule. Essentially we are in the driver's seat, requesting our own personalized application updates. While our solutions originated from core products, every year our technology provider dedicates two programmers to our lab, where they function as an extension of our staff. In this relationship, CLP is the business team that designs the specifications, while the vendor provides the dedicated IT component. The process follows a true software development lifecycle and has proven to be highly successful. We have built our business on it.

With customer satisfaction as our credo, a key goal of our software system is to enable delivery of services that supports each referring practice's unique workflow. In turn, our unique lab IT solutions support the flexible lab procedures and processes that enable this. At the helm of the IT department, I often receive requests involving new business drivers from CLP staff. Our typical response is, "We can do that. We can do anything." And, with the help of our dedicated vendor, we can.

CLP offers, for example, a dozen report formats that can be fine-tuned even further to meet a practice's specific preference. Moreover, thanks to a unique custom feature, our system offers real time electronic patient eligibility checking. If insurance coverage for a specific test is not available, direct payment can be requested prior to the exam. For one of our hospital partners, we are able to offer continuous patient results look-up across the continuum-of-care. This is accomplished through a unique LabConnect Portal with various login security levels. Verifiable statistics from the emergency department (ED) demonstrate a significant reduction in unnecessary testing and readmissions as a result. The portal is even accessible on most mobile devices.

While healthcare is definitely in the center of the digital age, manual orders remain a significant and disruptive fact of life. As anyone in medicine knows, deciphering a broad range of handwriting styles can result in inaccuracies and problems. Through an innovative QC tool built into our LOS, an order entry clerk's input of manual data is verified by another source before the specimen ever hits the bench. Typos are eliminated and test requests verified, ensuring referrers receive the reports exactly as they intend. CLP enjoys an extremely high client retention rate and we believe our success is due in part to these features that ensure everything is done correctly.

With today's need for a broad range of data reporting, particularly on healthcare quality, the ability to automatically mine and analyze information can vastly improve efficiency. CLP is an accountable care organization (ACO) and we do business with other similar organizations. To streamline administrative responsibilities, we have created, through our IT vendor, specialized tools that enable management and reporting of patient populations by diagnosis. In addition, with today's regulations often a moving target, the ability to nimbly address changes with automated, efficient related processes and procedures is an enormous benefit. The upcoming change from ICD-9 to ICD-10 codes is a perfect example. Additionally, custom-built analytic tools can help us assess our own business practices and staff to boost productivity and efficiency.

As one of our varied business ventures, CLP places phlebotomists in 30 to 50 private physician offices, where blood is drawn for testing at CLP labs. Running onsite, our LOS solution supports immediate order entry as a blood specimen is prepared to be sent off to our lab. Tracking location, tests, billing and more, this office-based software incorporates the greatest number of customizations to streamline the phlebotomist's procedures. With an extraordinary expertise, our vendor created a uniquely customizable family of lab IT solutions that have allowed CLP the opportunity to flourish.

David J. Molusis is vice-president and CIO of Clinical Laboratory Partners in Hartford, CT.


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