What is Laboratory Testing outsourcing?
In this world, as much as we strive to do everything to please our patients, customers and clients, there’s a limit of how much we can do inhouse. When that limit is reached, it doesn’t not end our desire to sort out our clients needs. Its an opportunity to look for solutions outside our walls.
In the medical laboratory, its not unusual to delegate some some functions or activities to an external entity, person or organization. This allows the laboratory to leverage outside expertise or capacity to achieve its objectives. Outsourcing can mean sending work to an outside location or bringing in a contractor to work on processes within your laboratory. All laboratories do outsource at some point in time as specialized expertise, knowledge or process may not be available or economical to have in-house.
The trend of outsourcing has been ongoing for a long time. Services like cleaning, waste disposal, and safety inspection have long been contracted out to other organizations. The trend is only accelerating, and this guide seeks to help hospitals, medical centers, nursing homes and indeed laboratories, understand the key issues in outsourcing.
Rationale for Outsourcing
Modern laboratories function in a highly technical and demanding environment. There are dozens of moving parts, systems and processes in place to ensure the lab produces quality results. You have analytical team, system specialists, biomedical engineering teams, bioinformatics and medical information, all working as a well oiled machine to produce one end product: a high quality test result. These processes include core technical activities of sample analysis and reporting. In addition, information data management has become an integral part of lab operations. Laboratories may not have in-house capacity to carry all these activities tests, and these are often outsourced to another entity.
For this discussion however, we will focus on outsourcing laboratory testing to external laboratory.
The key issue is to allow the lab to carry out its core mandate efficiently while outsourcing other functions to outside organizations that are more suited in terms of personnel, capacity, and other resources.
Whether to outsource and the specific route to take depends on several factors. These include the complexity of lab operations
Key Benefits of Outsourcing laboratory Testing
From the discussion, its obvious offloading some of the more esoteric tests to another lab can have some benefits. Lets review a few of them below: –
1. Cost Effectiveness
Often, it may not be efficient to invest in all tests inhouse. The more complex tests tend to be costly to set up in terms of facilities, equipment/reagent and personnel. At the same time, many laboratories may not have enough workloads to justify the investment. In Kenya for example, TB testing is free in public and some mission hospitals.
2. Access to specialized testing
Laboratories may not have the necessary equipment or expertise to perform certain specialized tests. Outsourcing allows them to access a wider range of tests without having to invest in expensive equipment or additional training for staff.
3. Increased efficiency:
Laboratories may experience fluctuations in test volumes, and outsourcing allows them to handle peak loads without the need to expand their in-house resources permanently. This can lead to more efficient use of resources and faster turnaround times for test results.
4. Focus on core activities:
By outsourcing certain tests, healthcare facilities and laboratories can focus on their core competencies and primary areas of expertise. This can lead to improved quality and accuracy in those specific tests, as resources are concentrated on them.
5. Faster implementation of new tests:
Introducing new tests to an in-house laboratory may involve a time-consuming process of validation, regulatory compliance, and staff training. Outsourcing new tests can speed up the implementation process, allowing faster adoption of the latest diagnostic technologies. In the case of Covid-19, most health facilities referred their samples or patients to national testing sites as implementing the new tests would take time and resources
Additional resources on laboratory test outsourcing ➡️➡️➡️How to Choose Services to Outsource in Your Lab
6.Access to advanced technology:
Outsourcing partners often have access to state-of-the-art technology and advanced testing methodologies. This enables the referring laboratory to offer more comprehensive and accurate diagnostic services without investing in the latest equipment themselves. Sometimes, the external laboratory have systems to send testing to outside the country like India, south Africa or Europe.
Laboratory testing outsourcing enables facilities to scale their testing capabilities according to changing demand, without the constraints of limited physical space or staff capacity.
8. Reduced administrative burden:
Managing an in-house laboratory involves various administrative tasks, such as staffing, supply chain management, and regulatory compliance. By outsourcing some testing, the administrative burden can be reduced, allowing laboratory staff to focus on the medical and scientific aspects of their work.
Its evident hospitals and laboratories can benefit immensely when outsourcing to highly competent external laboratory.
Choice of the contract partner
Once the decision is made that contracting is the best way to solve the issue at hand, the next step is to choose carefully the contract partner.
Identify your needs and requirements: Determine the specific tests or services you want to outsource. Understand your laboratory’s capacity, current limitations, and the volume of tests you expect to outsource. Create a clear list of requirements and objectives.
Conduct market research: Research potential outsourcing partners in the market. Look for companies or laboratories with a proven track record in the specific tests you need, relevant certifications, quality accreditations, and a good reputation in the industry. A handy place to start looking is our Top 10 medical laboratories in Kenya article
Evaluate the partner’s capabilities: Assess the potential outsourcing partner’s technical capabilities, infrastructure, equipment, and expertise in the relevant field. Request information on their staff qualifications, quality control processes, and turnaround times for test results.
Check for compliance and certifications: Ensure that the outsourcing partner complies with all relevant regulatory requirements and holds necessary certifications for performing the tests you require. This step is crucial to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the results. As a bare minimum, KENAS accreditation is desirable.
Review quality assurance measures: Inquire about the outsourcing partner’s quality assurance and quality control processes. Request information on how they handle quality issues, errors, and deviations.
Analyze cost and financial considerations: Cost consideration is a critical factor for laboratory testing outsourcing. Compare the costs associated with outsourcing to the costs of performing the tests in-house. Take into account not only the testing fees but also any additional expenses such as shipping, logistics, and data transfer. Choose an outsourcing partner that offers a competitive pricing structure without compromising on quality.
Check data security and confidentiality: Given the sensitive nature of medical data, ensure that the outsourcing partner has robust data security measures in place. Evaluate their data protection protocols and adherence to privacy regulations to safeguard patient information.
Evaluate communication and responsiveness: A strong working relationship requires effective communication. Assess the outsourcing partner’s communication channels, responsiveness to queries, and willingness to collaborate.
Seek references and customer reviews: Request references from current or past clients to gain insights into their experiences with the outsourcing partner. Additionally, check online reviews and testimonials to get a broader perspective on the partner’s reputation.
Establish a Service Level Agreement (SLA): Once you’ve selected a suitable outsourcing partner, negotiate and formalize the terms of the partnership in a comprehensive SLA. The SLA should cover aspects such as scope of services, expected turnaround times, quality standards, data handling, and dispute resolution procedures.
Start with a pilot project: If possible, begin the engagement with a smaller pilot project to assess the outsourcing partner’s performance and compatibility with your laboratory’s requirements. This will allow you to make adjustments before fully committing to a long-term partnership.
Monitor and review performance: Regularly evaluate the outsourcing partner’s performance and compliance with the SLA. Address any concerns or issues promptly and maintain open lines of communication to ensure a successful and mutually beneficial partnership.
By following these steps, laboratories can make informed decisions and engage with an outsourcing partner that aligns with their needs and priorities, ultimately enhancing their capabilities and the quality of patient care.
That’s a wrap. We hope this article has brought you clarity on outsourcing laboratory tests. If you would like to discuss the options for your lab get in touch with us.
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