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Health Tech | Digitisation of labs for greater efficiency

Published:Sunday | August 23, 2020 | 12:27 AM

Every business seeks to remain sustainable throughout development and change in society. It’s no different for those in the healthcare industry. With the advent of and rapid development of technology, many healthcare-related businesses have either had to change to stay afloat or develop new areas of endeavour to remain competitive.

In addition, there have been new business types that have emerged because of the available technology and the demand for certain services and commodities. The development and use of mobile applications is a great example of technology meeting demand. The increased use of telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic is another such example.

Most every healthcare business has begun to understand the value of technology in today’s world and have started introducing technology – some at a smaller scale than others. Our hospitals in Jamaica, both public and private, have been exploring digitising their infrastructure.

Some, like the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), are well on their way; others are at the beginning stages but have taken the important steps towards making this a reality. Once this is done, support services and those that are integral to the health ecosystem need to follow suit to keep up with the increasing demands for accuracy and efficiency that technology addresses.

The medical laboratory is an important part of this ecosystem that has to work in harmony with other sections of the hospital or medical practice. Whether the lab is off-site or within the confines of the hospital, it is important for there to be quick and efficient communication between the various areas of healthcare.

BENEFITS OF ACCREDITATION

Labs are already readying themselves for certification and a major movement towards this is digitisation. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one of the main benefits of accreditation is to support “an achievable and efficient healthcare system”. This is very much in line with what the technology can do for the operations of the laboratory.

This is perhaps why so many labs have been, in recent times, moving towards full digitisation or at least exploring the options available to them. Most locally available laboratory Information Management Systems can easily be integrated in other applications that are relevant to the operations of a hospital or medical practice. The system should ideally be able to send electronic lab requests and facilitate electronic responses.

This can already be done from two existing platforms in the health sector – the Hospital Information Management System now at UHWI and practice management software being used by some private medical practitioners.

The technology has several advantages, including the fact that it is web based and, therefore, can be accessed from anywhere. It leverages advanced Internet technologies to facilitate data management and decision-making within the laboratory, throughout the plant and across the enterprise. Transcription errors are reduced and duplication is avoided.

EFFICIENCY GAINS

Other efficiency gains that should come with a good laboratory information management system include:

Modernised lab management

Easily accessible and retrievable information

Increased accuracy

Faster data analysis

Ability to access historical references

A total view of the patient’s test and results records with the lab

Improved business management, including: billing and receivables, inventory management and payments

Improved data management

Patient registration

Test ordering

Electronic results capture and reporting

Management of samples – tracking of specimen from receipt, processing, testing, reporting to storage

The ability to attach images to reports

Workflow automation

Full audit trail, among others.

The lab system should be able to communicate with every other department of the lab as well as a hospital or medical practice. Ideally, a doctor should be able to quickly and easily request a lab test and receive results in a timely manner without the patient having to physically pick them up.

This ability to link to other systems is what will digitally enhance the information flow required for the development of holistic electronic patient record as well as a complete digital health environment across the public and private sectors.

The labs are a critical area, essential to completing and complementing this ecosystem and to improve clinical decision-making and overall patient care.

n Doug Halsall is the chairman and CEO of Advanced Integrated Systems. Email feedback to doug.halsall@gmail.com and editorial@gleanerjm.com.