It’s well-known that the shortage of staff in clinical laboratories is a growing concern that can affect the quality of care patients receive and is an ongoing contributing factor to staff burnout. With fewer college programs available year after year to train our next laboratory scientists, the continued retirement of experienced staff, and the Great Resignation, these shortages are becoming critical. While there are many things that can be done to alleviate the pressure of this shortage over time, what can be done immediately to help laboratories? Augmenting laboratory IT staff with a consulting firm is a great way to address this issue. In addition to providing additional resources for things like daily maintenance and support of your laboratory systems, the right consulting team can also tackle that backlog of projects that once successfully implemented often help gain efficiencies, automate processes, improve turnaround times, and even lower costs/increase revenues. In this blog post we’ll talk about some key things to look for in a consulting firm.
At a high level, it is important to look for a consulting firm that is the right cultural fit for your organization, and is willing to evolve with the ever-changing needs of your operation, understands the importance of being a cornerstone team member and will enter your projects with the intention to be there when it counts most, going the extra mile during the long haul of implementation and homestretch of project execution. No matter the scope, size, or nature of the laboratory IT project there are some key characteristics worth looking for when interviewing and selecting a consulting firm:
Company culture and philosophy
As an entire organization focuses on the customer experience throughout the lifetime of the relationship, not just throughout the duration of a project.
Understands the urgency, demanding timelines, and stress placed on your operations and staff in order to achieve your organization’s initiatives.
Uses a comprehensive discovery process to develop the correct plan for your facility, and help maximize ROI by providing valuable guidance and recommendations to ensure you are investing in the correct technology and leveraging what you already have to its fullest extent.
Not afraid to have the tough conversations even if that means letting you know of a system investment mistake and will work with you to correct those missteps to ensure patient safety, efficiency, compliance.
Is vendor agnostic, with a wide variety of laboratory systems, instrumentation and middleware experience and expertise and established relationships with industry vendors.
Ensures you and your team benefit from their experience and expertise over years of lessons learned and the implementation of best practices.
Reliable and consistent, highly skilled staff
Hires FTEs and relies less on contractors - without a revolving door of contracted staff the consulting firm is better positioned to build strong partnerships throughout both organizations and clients are also afforded better results and continuity of services (survivability of knowledge).
Consists of talented advisory staff who truly understand clinical and workflow implications to patient healthcare outcomes.
Acts as your advocates and proactively look out for/go to bat for you – the best consulting firms will champion your cause with other vendors or whoever else necessary to help, even if it’s out of scope. Consultants should be able to anticipate next steps and potential roadblocks to help reduce interruptions and clear the path.
Acts as your trusted advisors with the ability to recognize when your team needs or will need help and offer solutions to help avoid costly mistakes and ensure success.
Offers a comprehensive and flexible set of services
Services should be scalable so they can be customized to your particular needs.
The consulting firm should be responsive to current and changing market needs by offering the specific services you need, i.e., selecting and transitioning to a new LIS, system implementations, upgrades and data migration, interfacing instruments, full or part time staff augmentation, implementing autoverification, blood bank system validation, system optimization, report writing, etc.
Client focused approach, using established best practices and processes
Takes a positive and collaborative approach to proactively bring clients ahead of the curve, improve performance of their intrinsic core competencies and exploit areas poised for enhanced efficiencies.
Performs a thorough assessment of each your unique challenges, and designate qualified financial, administrative, IT, project management, and clinical specialists to tackle target-driven change management.
Collaborates and engages with your existing daily operations with minimal impact throughout the project life cycles.
Leaves no stone unturned during all phases of the project to determine the best possible solution(s).
Adds efficiencies to speed up process without taking shortcuts that could compromise quality or patient safety.
Looks for ways to save you time and money, providing ROI so you and your team can spend time on value added services vs. spinning the wheel on mundane tedious tasks.
Is hands on vs. just providing direction and waiting for your team to take action. The right consulting firm is with you every step of the way!
Eases the pain of transition and change by taking an integrated change approach across service model, to do change WITH you, not just TO you. The consultants should engage, invest, and inspire your staff to embrace, adopt and use the new ways of working.
Provides effective and thorough handoffs – consultants should remain engaged with you and ensure your team is prepared to take ownership of completed projects by providing proper documentation and knowledge transfer to successfully maintain your solutions.
Once engaged with your consulting team, here are some hints to ensure your project is successful:
Bring your consultants into project conversations early and often to minimize potential need to rescue projects.
Communicate and level set frequently with leadership, IT, lab, vendors, and all internal and external stakeholders to ensure alignment.
Keep provider and patient experience at the forefront in all phases of project planning and keep the voice of provider and patient in consideration throughout the entire project.
Actively participate in the process, regular status/alignment calls.
Overall, supplementing clinical laboratory IT staff with consultants can be a valuable way to bring in specialized expertise, flexibility, objectivity, and cost-effectiveness to support the laboratory's operational and IT needs. The right consultants can provide a range of services, including project management, interim and/or on-going support for new and legacy systems, training and education, and lead and support special projects, helping to ensure that the laboratory's IT needs are met, and operations are not disrupted.
And remember, it's never too late!
Even if the execution phases of an established project are well underway, the right consulting firm can still be extremely helpful in driving success.
No matter where you are in your healthcare IT transformation journey, look for a firm dedicated to your long-term success and committed to providing the personalized and collaborative approach you need to make your vision a reality.
If you are interested in learning more about leveraging consulting services, let us know! The JTG family would love to join yours, and together we’ll share in successful endeavors for many years to come.
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