( Note: This article is part of 4-part series on outsourcing in the clinical laboratory)
Outsourcing In The Clinical Laboratory the delegation of 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 laboratory managers, leaders, and practitioners understand the key issues in outsourcing.
Rationale for Outsourcing
Modern laboratories function in a highly technical and demanding environment. There are dozens of systems and processes in place to ensure the lab produces quality results. 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 the capacity to carry out certain tests, and these are often outsourced to another 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
- Cost management/efficiency
- Improve Quality
- Prevent burnout of laboratory staff
- Allow regulatory compliance
- Save time
- Free staff to focus on higher-value-added work
- Access capacity unavailable in-house
- Access expertise unavailable in-house
- Access fresh, unbiased perspectives
- Increase flexibility
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.
Some of the factors to consider are:
- Nature of relationship – transactional or a partnership
- Type of qualifications, accreditations/certifications are required
- Candidate contractor’s processes and commitments around delivery
- Qualifications of their personnel, their equipment, processes and capacity to undertake the contract functions
- Quality management practices particularly for analytical processes.