How Labs Can Innovate in 2020
Anticipating changes needed to help hospital laboratories succeed in 2020
By Mark Krhovsky | January 17, 2020
The first mission of hospital and health system laboratories has remained the same for a half century: manage diagnostic testing and accurately produce the results on which most of a patient’s care is based. However today, no part of a hospital is immune to the pressures of cost control and increased efficiency. Layer that with distribution challenges, staff shortages, increased testing demands, and declining reimbursements and you have a perfect storm of obstacles challenging hospital lab leadership across the country. To manage these pressures while maintaining high levels of service in 2020 and beyond, laboratories have no choice but to adapt.
In my time working in lab manufacturing and distribution these past 10 years, I’ve spent a significant portion of my time in the field speaking with laboratory leaders about innovative ways of adapting to these ever-growing pressures facing the lab. The leaders I’ve encountered who were most successful did so by pursuing two measures: making an effort to cross collaborate with non-clinical cohorts with expertise in supply chain and purchasing and taking time to reevaluate their supplier relations (both distribution and manufacturing).
Collaborating more internally
One way labs can innovate in 2020 is by engaging more with teams across other departments. Collaborating internally not only gives lab professionals more opportunities to communicate their value and relevancy to other parts of the system but can also help to offload extraneous, time consuming responsibilities, like managing supplies. Laboratory Directors and Medical Laboratory Scientists are experts in running vital tests and ensuring consistently accurate clinical outcomes. What most of them didn’t study in school or get into healthcare for is inventory management, vendor negotiations and purchasing. In the past, however, these responsibilities fell under their purview as they were asked to order and store the products necessary to run their labs. This has led to high spend in the lab, even as other areas of the hospital has streamlined and lowered costs.
This separation of the lab from the rest of the supply chain decision-making engine has resulted in a widespread lack of data transparency and standardization. Without a clear look at inventory, capital instrumentation and distribution contracts, pricing and usage, hospitals risk losing money and monopolizing their laboratorian’s time. Where supply chain teams and laboratories have begun the process of collaborating to better understand and leverage each other’s strengths and expertise—we’ve seen a dramatic paradigm shift and modernization of the way those facilities function. In many circumstances these labs have become the most competitive and cutting edge when it comes to clinical outcomes as well as cost maintenance. It’s less than a stretch to assume that these efforts to engage are leading to better running labs and improved clinical outcomes.
Reexamining supplier relations
Another way labs can better adapt in 2020 is by reexamining their supplier relationships to make sure they’re receiving the level of service and strategic partnership they deserve. I often ask, why should the lab expect to receive a different level of service compared to other departments of the hospital? Are medical-surgical or pharmaceutical items more important or more complex? The simple answers to these questions are that customers should expect comparable service for their labs, and the products are equally as critical to the quality of care—and in many cases more technical. For those reasons the involvement from those who understand purchasing and procurement should be heightened—and the scrutiny of key vendor partners should be high.
For decades, only two distributors handled the majority of the lab distribution business across the country. This lack of competition led to an environment where large, prized accounts received the majority of attention, while smaller hospitals and networks had to make due. Luckily today’s laboratories have more options—and in many instances are starting to demand more in terms of service. There is a new crop of laboratory distributors and manufacturers entering the healthcare space which is driving competition in a market that has historically had little breadth of choice. These new partners are bringing innovative products and ideas, increased focus on flexibility and service, and the ability to drive down cost through various levels of efficiency.
VP of Laboratory Sales
Mark Krhovsky manages Medline’s laboratory specialist sales forces nationwide. Mark’s teams help support sales verticals in both the acute care and non-acute care market segments. Mark joined Medline in 2011. In his first role within the organization, Mark was responsible for helping build Medline’s laboratory product portfolio while managing an ever growing group of new vendor partnerships. In 2014 Mark was promoted to Director of Marketing within the Lab & Diagnostics product division where he took on responsibility for Medline’s lab consumable product portfolio including enterprise-wide training and continued vendor/product portfolio management. In 2016 Mark moved into the role of Vice President of Marketing within Lab & Diagnostics where he took on the additional responsibilities of managing lab diagnostics and further development of Medline’s go-to-market plans for lab distribution. In his current role Mark oversees Medline’s specialty sales strategy for laboratory including national field sales, collaboration with corporate/national accounts, and strategic partner management. Mark is currently a member of HIDA’s Laboratory Advisory Council. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.