Data Analytics in the Laboratory

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New technologies continue to push the boundaries of what will be possible for the laboratories of tomorrow

Today’s hardware and software are far more than data processors and storage systems, they are data analyzers capable of helping laboratories and hospitals increase productivity, quality, effectiveness and revenue. Data generated offer insights into emerging hospital and physician needs, system and staff workloads and performance, quality control issues and the accuracy and reliability of patient results. They also alert laboratory staff to potential system issues and assist in maintaining critical laboratory certifications. Understanding the vast amounts of data available can help you stay ahead of the curve and improve your laboratory’s ability to be a successful revenue center.

Enhancing Patient Care

Hospitals rely extensively on data, from inventory to supply chain to facility management and workflow systems. Raw information from laboratory instruments is among the most critical. These data, which report patient results and assist physicians in determining next steps in treatment, are sent throughout the hospital, often via middleware and into enterprise-level systems. Data are used to improve immediate patient care, but are also available for system-wide initiatives. By reviewing key measurement thresholds and patient outcomes across a hospital or hospital system, physicians and scientists can use data to enhance treatment best practices based on both evidence-based medicine and evidence-based application with their patients. Data Analytics

Laboratory data can also enhance a hospital’s entire quality management system. Automated systems record and store millions of data annually. With automated retrieval, hospitals can pull data from multiple systems and compare them week over week, month over month and year over year to identify outliers for further investigation. As new systems are added, data can be easily synchronized throughout the system and calibrated and reported at the touch of button.

In addition, many laboratory and hospital certifications require multiple years of data to maintain certification. Laboratory instruments can automatically send compliance-required data directly to certification systems at required intervals. Data are retrievable and traceable whenever necessary, whether for internal (hospital) or external needs. This not only improves overall hospital and laboratory efficiency but also ensures standardization; different hospital laboratories run by different laboratory scientists will have data produced using standardized systems and rules, which reduces risks, errors and manual tasks and harmonizes data and processes system-wide. Electronic record storage also means that prime real estate can be used for more than paper record storage.

Making the Most of Your Investments

Data on instrument utilization and performance are also critical as they help to maximize your investment dollars. Today’s systems alert laboratory staff to potential system problems before errors or failures occur, prompting early investigation and system maintenance that can prevent processing downtime. When alerts appear, remote technicians can both talk with laboratory scientists and see what is happening with a system in real-time. This leads to more accurate troubleshooting and quicker resolution.

Data also provide insights into how instruments are being used and if imbalances are occurring that can lead to decreased productivity. For example, data may show that the instrument closest to the door is used at full capacity 24 hours a day while another is only run 40 or 50 percent of the time. Balancing use can postpone the need for maintenance and increase productivity. In addition, if data show that any instrument is operating at full capacity at all times, it may be time for the laboratory to consider upgrading to a higher capacity instrument or adding another instrument to accommodate higher volume and increase revenue.

Data also help laboratories become more efficient. Quality control (QC) is critical, but is QC being run more often than needed? Are instruments being over- or under-calibrated for the types of tests and volumes being seen? Does production lag at certain times? While data cannot pinpoint whether lag times are due to shift changes, need for increased training or differences in lab shift behavior, they do give you the starting point for further investigation so that root causes can be identified and addressed to keep your laboratory running at maximum efficiency around the clock.

Increasing Revenues and Reputation

You want your laboratory to be on the cutting edge of new tests and technologies-as long as being on the cutting edge is serving the actual needs of your hospitals, physicians and patients. From fibrinogen to homocysteine to vitamin D levels, new evidence-based medical guidelines or FDA clearances, media reports and numerous other factors can contribute to the number of requests for a given test at a given point in time.

To ensure your laboratory stays on top of testing trends without pouring resources into trends that do not meet the needs of your specific market, data analysis is critical. Who is ordering each unique test? How often? Why? Will an expanded menu increase revenues? If so, which tests should we focus on? Are there areas where our laboratory needs to become more current with the newest medical science? What is the accepted gold standard for running the newest tests? What about tests that are no longer popular? What adjustments can we make?

Proper analysis gives your laboratory a competitive edge by allowing you to spot and prepare for trends early-which in turn allows your customers to shine as they readily meet the needs of physicians and patients. It also cements your laboratory’s reputation as a leader in emerging medical science, and gives you the time to execute an expanded testing menu properly.

The Future of Data Analytics in the Laboratory

New technologies continue to push the boundaries of what will be possible for the laboratories of tomorrow. Today’s solutions provide extensive actionable health information for physicians, alert laboratory technologists about potential issues, communicate calibration data, test results and performance information into multiple enterprise-wide systems to support quality and efficiency initiatives and can pinpoint opportunities to enhance revenue streams.

Among the most innovative offerings is hc1.com® Healthcare Relationship Cloud™ for Beckman Coulter. It is the first of its kind solution built specifically for healthcare. Using hc1.com, key persons can securely access their enterprise-wide data in real-time from any hospital approved computer, tablet or mobile device. Beckman Coulter partnered with hc1.com to provide healthcare customers with an answer to the question of how to use their “big data.” Simply put, hc1.com transforms massive volumes of clinical information into action, such as automatically alerting the right laboratory team member when a corrective action needs to be taken. With hc1.com for Beckman Coulter, hospital labs can measure, improve and sustain their efforts to actively improve lab performance as operations continue, resulting in enhanced operational efficiency, reduced errors and, ultimately, improved patient care.

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About Author

Martha Davis

Martha Davis is manager, R&D Development Science - software automation and workflow and IT solutions, Beckman Coulter Diagnostics.

Tina Song

Tina Song is product manager, workflow and IT Solutions, Beckman Coulter Diagnostics.

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