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Leadership and Lab Efficiency Go Hand in Hand with Quality Outcomes

I’ve experienced many different environments where we were in the process of implementing our solution, and the mix of customer behavior and motives has been diverse between them. As we navigate through various obstacles/challenges with a focus on “making customers successful" with speech recognition software for Pathology we find ourselves continually learning from experiences and asking, "what’s the secret to success?" That said, there’s one example that always comes to mind when I think about successful sites and the behaviors that led to success.

A number of years ago, we implemented VoiceOver at a site where the key stakeholder (Chairman of Pathology) was struggling with "being held hostage by his transcriptionists" and he wanted his team to have control of the outcomes they were trying to achieve. He was in the process of evaluating his department based upon the outcomes that made them successful, and identifying areas for improved efficiency.

His belief was that improved efficiency lead to a potential increase in volume and revenue. Some may disagree with the notion that revenue shouldn’t be a primary focus when it comes to patient care, and I do understand why a myopic focus would be a negative.  That said, in an environment where there’s a significant amount of inefficiency, typically there’s a decrease in the level of quality associated with patient care. So you can look at it in terms of quality, or you can look at it from a business operations perspective, which I believe provides a more objective view. Here are some questions you might ask:

  • How does Pathology make money?
  • Is there a diversified set of revenue streams?
  • Is there an opportunity to diversify by taking on more volume of external sources?
  • What is our revenue per employee?
  • How many cases broken down by type are we able to handle in a week?
  • What’s the average turnaround time for each major type of specimen?
  • What are the bottlenecks associated with our current process?
  • Where are we losing money?

What this does is focus on very objective metrics that allow you to get a baseline, and then begin planning how you can improve those key metrics. In the example I’m sharing, this Chairman of Pathology was very focused on improving efficiency and volume while providing high quality diagnostic reports, and he found that a specimen would arrive in Pathology in the morning and the final report would sometimes take two or more days to return. He also found that Pathologists were sitting waiting for reports to come back from transcription and due to a number of bottlenecks it would take a significant amount of time to get those cases back.leaders

So how were they successful? During the implementation of VoiceOver, the Chairman himself was 110% involved in reworking the process, including fully optimizing the workflow from a systems automation point of view and changing the behavior of his team to help them realize that change leads to more opportunity for them. During the implementation, I heard over and over, “if I can do it, then everyone can", and the Chairman had a “no excuse" policy. His involvement also helped achieve some really well automated workflows, including some of the following features:

  • Dual screen workflow - with one voice command that automates 12 processes, a Pathologist is able to view a “working draft" of the report on one screen while dictating on another
  • Automatic sizing of application window and positioning them in the right place to optimize screen real estate and functionality
  • Automatic pre-population of a final diagnosis template when beginning a diagnosis dictation
  • A very good set of templates, including templates that provided structure and formatting as well as the required disclaimers that are used on those cases

In addition to automation, he also created a mix of work shifts focused on maximizing the availability of resources to dictate reports based on the flow of specimens. So if a specimen comes in during the morning hours, there will be a Pathologist on staff during the evening hours who can complete that report and have it signed out before the end of the day.

In summary, I think  this Chairman demonstrated leadership and his involvement in the process made success a reality. His focus wasn't, “we’re implementing technology that is going to provide great improvements", it was objective and focused on what measured outcomes could be improved, and he led by example. Here are some of the outcomes achieved as part of the improvements made:

  • 20% increase in volume
  • Improved turnaround time, by as much as 1.5 days
  • Control put in the hands of the Pathologists, and cases processed in real-time

Here are some take-aways from his actions that lead to success:

  1. Run your Pathology organization like a business, and enable your teams to be motivated as if it’s their own business.
  2. Get your hands dirty, and be involved in demanding successful outcomes.
  3. Lead by example, and don’t allow excuses to cloud the potential for success.
  4. Don’t ever allow this approach of “run like a business" to impact quality and/or patient care. If there’s a negative impact, then something is wrong.

To read more about objectified customer success like these, please visit our case study pages or download one of these case studies...

Download the UPMC Case Study ›

Download the Stony Brook Case Study ›