Synergy is Key to Achieving Transformational Change in the Laboratory
First published in Advanced Healthcare Network
Change continues to be the new normal in healthcare. This couldn’t be truer for health systems challenged to be more efficient and adaptable to meet future demands. One way health systems are adapting is by establishing unique and progressive partnerships that yield high rewards. In fact, hospital partnerships (including mergers, acquisitions and other forms of partnerships) have grown 18% since 2014 and 70% since 2010.
An example of two health systems leveraging a partnership model to drive transformation change in health system laboratory operations is between Advocate Healthcare and Aurora Healthcare. Together, they created the combined lab operations, ACL, to serve both health systems and also develop new independent business.With ACL’s growing success, Accumen came in to assist with their goal of becoming one of the top performing labs in the country. The point in this is that the path these health systems took proved partnerships can be leveraged in different strategic ways to usher in meaningful change, new opportunities and rise to the challenges brought about by higher costs, lower reimbursements and an evolving healthcare delivery environment.
However, partnerships take work-especially in critical ancillary services of a laboratory, where driving quality patient care and physician service requires a high level of synergy.
Aristotle said it best, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Achieving this synergy and opportunity to achieve the ‘whole’ doesn’t happen overnight, especially in the complex working environment that is the lab. However, synergy is essential to reaching maximum potential. The path to synergistic partnerships starts with sharing the same vision, acknowledging the starting point in capability and culture, embracing the idea of change and the heavy lifting that comes with it and sharing in the risk of achieving real transformational outcomes in the lab.
Collaboration between clinical laboratories and a lab transformation partner must be based on a shared vision for what the lab can become, whether the goal is to reach a new level of peak performance or proactively changing to strategically support the goals and direction of the health system. Working to achieve the same end goal allows both partners to remain focused on the core outcomes.
By sharing and holding to a common vision, the optimistic vision turns to reality and a new normal emerges, creating a higher performing lab aligned with and built to serve the needs of the health system. Higher performing means creating fewer lost specimens, quicker turn-around-time (TAT) to enable early diagnosis and, subsequently, a shorter length of stay, fewer patients exposed to blood transfusions, improved physician satisfaction and growth of outreach.
For example, Sharp HealthCare did just that by working with a transformation partner to assess the current capabilities of their lab network and untapped potential for higher performance and growth. Using this vision for positive change, a comprehensive and integrated transformation plan was developed to guide their journey to lab excellence. They worked with their partner to execute annual plans in which measurable goals were used to ensure progress and outcomes were achieved.
Culture undoubtedly counts when you’re working with a transformation partner. We all know change can be hard-and accelerated change even harder, especially when trying to manage and improve such a vital part of the health system like labs.
With change, the lab’s culture will inevitably experience growing pains as new processes and procedures are implemented, standardized and measured. A shared culture with a demand for excellence between the lab transformation partner and the lab opens the door to achieving peak performance.
To be effective partners in this journey, the transformation partner must embrace the health system and the lab’s existing values and culture. The partner must use its experience and expertise to set new standards of performance to drive higher quality, better service and value for the overall health system, but it needs to do this by taking into consideration the health systems pace and appetite for change. Different needs, opportunities and culture define each lab uniquely, requiring that change be closely monitored and adjusted as required to ensure acceptance and sustainability.
Share the Risk and the Reward.
A great lab transformation partner should not hesitate to be willing to share in the risk of optimizing and growing the lab. Sharing in the risk and rewards builds trust, confidence and credibility.
So, what does shared risk look like to get to the rewards of a re-imagined, transformed high-performing lab? To extract value in the lab with certainty, there is required investment. The investment from both parties for transformational change comes with clear anticipation and expectation of the potential rewards in elevating the contribution of the lab-including better integration in the continuum of care, higher service and quality and efficiencies unable to be realized before.