Mayo Clinic Laboratories fully supports 11 key tactics for laboratory outreach to increase hospital revenue, decrease costs, and improve patient care. By optimizing these areas and tracking metrics, laboratories are better positioned to demonstrate their value to the organization as a whole.
Our tactics include:
Hospital leadership’s perception of the laboratory—as a patient-care service or a commodity—determines the level of support it gives to laboratory initiatives. A successful outreach program will gain and retain administrative support and resources by:
- Defining who the laboratory reports to and the influence the laboratory has at the leadership table.
- Formalizing the processes for developing, expanding, and sustaining a revenue-generating service line.
- Determining how resources are requested and allocated.
- Defining how success is measured and communicated.
Institutional Culture & Alignment
The institutional culture plays a large role in an outreach program’s success or failure. Is your organization externally focused? Does it recognize the contribution of the laboratory? Helping organizational leadership recognize the historic financial and patient-care contributions of the laboratory, or the potential future contributions, will bring organizational and laboratory perspectives into alignment. This ensures that the outreach program will have administrative support and access to necessary resources.
Market Share & Competition
Are you realizing 100% of your in-reach market today? If not, what share of this market do you serve, and what are the challenges standing in your way? Outreach programs face competition from national laboratories, regional independent laboratories, and other hospital outreach programs. To be successful, outreach programs must:
- Identify the target market
- Deliver accessible and competitive services
- Create and leverage competitive advantages
Health system integration and the employment of providers help create a more supportive infrastructure for the laboratory.
Courier & Logistics
Efficient transportation and processing of specimens is key to meeting turnaround times as well as high performance in quality metrics such as number of lost specimens. For an outreach program to be successful in these areas, a courier network is critical. Whether the network is owned or outsourced by the organization, couriers should be judged on the following criteria and capabilities:
- Hours of service
- Drop-off and delivery times
- Stat service capability
- Dispatch process
- Uniform or hospital attire
- Customer feedback
- Specimen tracking capabilities
- Dedicated communication devices
Pricing & Payor Contracting
Health plan contracts play a critical role in constraining or supporting the growth of an outreach program. Understanding how laboratory outreach tests are paid and the challenges of the various prevalent health plans in the market will help your outreach program compete successfully.
A few pricing strategies to consider are:
- A separate, competitive outreach fee schedule
- Client-specific fee schedules
- Performed a cost-per-test analysis and understanding variable costs
Billing & Accounts Receivable
Whether billing is handled externally or internally to the hospital, an effective outreach program will be supported by a billing process that reduces write-offs and bad debt by implementing prior authorization and place-of-service collections. To achieve this, the hospital will need to understand how laboratory outreach testing is billed and identify challenges related to maximizing collections.
Connectivity and reliability are the critical attributes of any hospital’s information technology. Does your electronic health record (EHR) allow efficient access for affiliated providers to order laboratory tests and view results when located off-site? Does your hospital’s laboratory information system (LIS) connect all your market segments, such as the physician office, skilled nursing, other hospitals, and home health?
An outreach program needs solutions that meet customer segment reporting requirements and enables easy test ordering and results reporting. Also critical is a dedicated staff to support customer connectivity and IT needs. Effective technology can also facilitate utilization management using decision-support tools to guide test orders.
Marketing & Sales
For both sales and marketing, you must answer the question, how does the laboratory collect and maintain data related to client activity and relationships?
To begin or grow an outreach program, a comprehensive strategy to promote laboratory testing in the target area is critical. This means an integrated marketing and sales strategy.
Marketing: A successful marketing strategy starts with a sound understanding of how to promote laboratory testing and services to a variety of audiences, from providers to patients. This message is then published through channels such as printed materials, website, signage, social media, and branding.
Sales: A formal sales force that is trained and well-supported will help the outreach program expand locally and regionally and will be critical to reaching new markets. To begin, identify your laboratory’s current process for developing and maintaining customer relationships and identify specific institutional or market dynamics that dictate the sales process.
The patient’s laboratory experience is typically defined by their phlebotomy experience. The patient’s encounter with the laboratory has several aspects:
- Convenient locations and hours of service at patient service center or draw site
- Minimal wait time and comfortable waiting area
- Phlebotomy staff competence and attitude
Likewise, physicians expect their patients to have easy access to phlebotomy services in order to increase patient compliance. Many physician offices request an in-office phlebotomist from the laboratory (in states where not prohibited by law). Although this service is patient-focused, it may not be cost-effective in all circumstances. A profitability analysis can justify providing an in-office phlebotomist.
Do you have the necessary functions to support outreach specimens and processes, and are these supported by dedicated staff? Generating additional test volume through outreach is counterproductive if the laboratory does not have the necessary capacity or infrastructure to support it. This may include:
- Efficient transportation network
- Clear client communications process, including easy ordering and results communication
- Streamlined specimen processing workflow
- Customer service call center
- Adequate supplies
- Phlebotomy staff and support
Financial Reporting & Key Performance Indicators
Tracking outreach metrics and clearly communicating results allows you to reassure hospital leadership that the laboratory is a valuable asset for the organization. Metrics may include:
- Net revenue/test
- Test volume (CPT)
- Cost per test
- Patient volume
- Outreach cost per test
- Profitability per client or market