Without the support of pathologists, medical technologists, histotechnicians, cytotechnologists, phlebotomists, and other lab workers, healthcare professionals couldn’t adequately test, diagnose, treat, and prevent diseases. Although clinical laboratories have always played a substantial role in healthcare, the general population wasn’t aware of the significance of these facilities until 2020, when the global pandemic began.
As this foreign, complicated, and sometimes life-threatening virus plagued the world, the need for high-quality, fully-equipped, and innovative laboratories grew. Fortunately, public and private labs rose to the occasion and helped to weather the storm. While things have since subsided, the influx of patients seeking medical checkups, testing, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention, has exposed the substantial problems facing clinical labs.
Clinical Labs Face An Uphill Battle
Increased public awareness is excellent. It means that citizens are being proactive about prioritizing their health. However, if healthcare systems are going to keep up with patient demands, they must understand the growing concerns of clinical labs. Continue reading to learn more.
High Costs And Limited Budgets
The overhead and operational expenses of clinical laboratories are substantial. Running a high-quality, safe, and fully-functioning lab comes with costs that range from commercial leases and utilities to staffing and equipment. Unfortunately, private and public labs have few financial resources, limiting their ability to perform their responsibilities adequately.
According to Forbes, laboratories in the US and Canada report that they’re understaffed by anywhere from 20 to 25,000 people. The reasons for these shortages vary, but burnout, increased workloads, and lack of recognition rank high on the list. More than retaining essential laboratory personnel, limited training programs, and internships reduce the pool of qualified experts available to hire.
Sample Management Concerns
Laboratories receive hundreds, if not thousands, of samples daily. They must effectively track and manage these samples throughout the testing process to ensure quick and accurate results. As one would expect, increased workloads, smaller workforces, and limited finances generate higher risks of inaccuracies and delays.
Since 2020, institutions ranging from the federal government to retail businesses have experienced cyber attacks at an alarming rate. Healthcare facilities, in particular, are prime targets for ransomware attacks in which criminals infiltrate medical databases and deny access until the required ransom is paid. As clinical labs and other healthcare organizations rely heavily on digital platforms, it’s a scary and expensive threat that lab and medical directors cannot overlook.
Finding The Answers
The above issues aren’t new for clinical labs, but the increased need for quality services means “getting by” is no longer sufficient. So, what are some things laboratories can do to resolve these substantial problems? Continue reading to learn more.
Leasing Laboratory Supplies And Equipment
Supplies and equipment rank highest on the list of laboratory operational expenses. Whether bought outright or financed, keeping up with the monthly installments, maintenance, and repair costs is challenging. Over time, these investments lose value and effectiveness, requiring labs to purchase more advanced solutions, which causes more significant strain.
Leasing from laboratory supply companies is a practical solution. It enables lab directors to invest in state-of-the-art equipment without absorbing the bulk of their operational funds. Laboratory supply company leasing agreements include everything from installation and training to preventative maintenance and repairs, saving clinical labs thousands of dollars.
Prioritize Hiring And Retention
Resolving the critical lab worker shortage requires directors to focus on two fundamental aspects: retaining existing staff and recruiting new talent. Reducing turnover rates means assessing the needs of lab workers and offering adequate solutions. Such examples include higher salaries, flexible schedules, promotion opportunities, better work-life balance, and efficient training and resources.
Clinical labs should use traditional and digital methods to attract new talent. Partnering with medical schools and training programs to recruit recent or upcoming graduates, placing ads on healthcare and laboratory job sites, and getting active on social media platforms are all practical and necessary approaches to consider. When laboratories prioritize hiring and retention, it can reduce staff shortages while resolving lab obstacles like sample management.
Last but likely, the most important is enhancing cybersecurity efforts. The standard lines of defense are installing antivirus software and regularly updating digital platforms. Implementing network-level security, such as having multiple networks for lab functions and installing firewalls, can help IT departments identify and resolve cyber threats more efficiently. Finally, frequent and comprehensive cybersecurity training can help keep critical lab data safe.
The need for clinical labs is apparent. However, the overwhelming challenges ranging from money problems and staffing to workflow issues and cyber attacks, prevent these essential establishments from servicing the world’s healthcare systems. Ultimately, lab directors should implement practical solutions like those listed above to continue being the “superheroes” the world needs.