When multiple hospitals or health systems join forces, those mergers may not always create one big happy family.   

That’s because each lab has probably been doing diagnostics well in its own unique way for years.

“There is an industry line, ‘If you have seen one lab, you have seen one lab,’” says Rob Atlas, founder of Atlas Medical.

Labs corralled by new healthcare consolidations are challenged by their innate differences. They usually have disparate laboratory information, health information and registration systems, as well as different ways to identify patients. Ultimately, what labs need, pursuant to merging, is to appear and act (to physician and patient customers) as one single entity and not multiple entities that have been pieced together.    

“When you have two or more labs each doing their own thing and now they come together, at every level you have different policies, different approaches, different ways of labeling tubes,  different names for tests, different everything—across almost all workflows and processes,” Rob cautions.

Bigger systems, fewer labs

Making mergers work well is increasingly important to lab leaders, since healthcare systems—in a quest to boost competitiveness and efficiency—are likely to continue to grow to the point where there may be only 300 – 400 of them in the U.S., as compared to thousands of branded entities now, according to Atlas Medical leaders who, consequently, also envision fewer surviving labs.

Some of the nation’s largest healthcare systems are embracing the ATLAS Multi-Lab Networking solution to build and manage diagnostics testing networks, create a virtual single experience for clients, centralize catalogs, automate test sharing, consolidate services and meet other goals.

The ATLAS solution, Multi-Lab Networking, also addresses the needs of mid-size regional healthcare systems, and is one of eight solutions powered by the Coordinated Diagnostics Platform™, created by Atlas Medical to support improved patient outcomes, reduce overall healthcare costs and enhance services as it positions labs at the epicenter of healthcare.

Multiple possibilities with Multi-Lab Networking  

The highly configurable and customizable Multi-Lab Networking makes it possible for healthcare systems to achieve the following:

Create a test sharing network: Multi-Lab Networking enables creation and management of a testing sharing network. What does that mean to a healthcare system? Take, for example, three hospitals in a region struggling to scale testing. So they come together in a network, and the lab leaders agree to share the test load instead of duplicating all types of tests at all hospital labs. Then, to round out their offering, a specialty lab (or two, …) is identified outside the network for esoteric testing. 

“It is an opportunity for them to create a virtual lab—which is a combination of all the testing entities—and to optimize tests performed so all three institutions do not have to do the same testing,” says Rob, who adds that some tests, such as complete blood counts, or some tests for the emergency departments and operating theatres, may need to be done at all lab sites.

Through test sharing networks, organizations are reducing costs associated with testing. They also discover expertise and leverage it system-wide. For instance, one lab may be a rock star at outreach, a second proficient in specimen collections and the third at customer service or courier logistics.  Each focused skillset can now be shared across all affiliated entities.

Develop a referring lab to performing lab network:  Multi-Lab Networking also enables support of a large-scale referring lab and performing lab network.  A renowned medical lab, for example, may have 2,000 referring labs sending orders its way.  And ATLAS’ Multi-Lab Networking Platform solution connects those referring customers to the one performing entity—easy to say, but there is a lot under the hood to make it work.

One institution – multiple lab sharing:  Still other challenges addressed by Multi-Lab Networking are found within a single institution.

Lab leaders may tap the solution to enable clinical tests to be processed by the clinical LIS while anatomic pathology (AP) tests head to the AP system.

“And when we get results back, we can keep them separate or we can integrate them together in one report. More labs want that, and want to include images and other data but they don’t know to ask for it,” Rob says.

Clinical lab – multiple partners:  And yet in another scenario enabled by the solution, a clinical lab may have partners in AP, in various areas of a state, a region or even the country, such as a Sacramento-based clinical lab with an AP partner in the same town, as well as a partner in Los Angeles, where it also does business. The clinical lab, aided by the Multi-Lab Networking solution, can split orders from various client locations between its core lab and one of its AP partners, as needed.

“Our Multi-Lab Networking Platform solution allows labs to set up these multi-institutional partnerships when they want to route tests to different partners, different labs and different locales for different reasons,” explains Rob.

Unique capabilities

Labs turn to ATLAS’ Multi-Lab Networking for its sophisticated features aimed at improving workflow. Here are examples:

Test ordering and routing: Atlas Medical built interesting traffic control functionality into the solution. Network administrators may determine which tests are viewable from the test catalog by ordering location, where test orders are routed based on various criteria and they can do so in real-time. For example, tests can be re-routed to a performing lab in Florida when a winter storm in Minnesota or New England suggests the lab there is going to be snowed in and perhaps unable to accept specimens for some period of time.

“It’s pretty sophisticated when you can control test ordering and routing in this way, and it goes along with the solution’s joint test catalog,” Rob says.

Solution for single labs, too:  Despite having “multi” in its name, this malleable Multi-Lab Networking solution also enables a stand-alone lab to present a crisp image and maintain its workflow even during times of great change, such as those associated with a new LIS install, enabling a phased “go-live” of modules of the new system while continuing to operate the existing one.

“Our customers have had a lot of success forming these diagnostic networks and making them work with our Multi-Lab Networking solution. We have the expertise for any given situation regardless of the complexity or the number of lab entities,” concludes Rob.

To learn more about Multi-Lab Networking powered by the ATLAS Coordinated Diagnostics Platform, visit www.AtlasMedical.com or call 800.333.0070.