Specimen Storage: A Costly Oversight In Information Governance

By: In: Healthcare On: Dec 11, 2014

To fully connect the patient record – and gain optimal visibility, efficiency and interconnectivity across the organization – your information governance policy framework must address all forms of patient information – and that includes laboratory specimens. Often an oversight in enterprise-wide governance planning, the storage and management of laboratory specimens, such as glass slides and paraffin wax blocks, is riddled with complexity and risk. Establishing clear standards for the handling and storage of specimen archives, as well as a strategic plan for the integration of laboratory test results into the unified patient record will:

  • Promote the consistent and secure handling of all information and assets across your enterprise
  • Alleviate FTE bandwidth constraints and enable more strategic allocation of onsite resources
  • Enable the administration and enforcement of an up-to-date best-practice approach to pathology storage that improves efficiency and reduces risk
  • Free up premium onsite space for grant-securing research or revenue generating activities
  • Ensure providers have all the information required to minimize test duplication and make informed patient-care decisions

Keep in mind that, though valuable, this is not an easy process.It requires change management. You must be willing to pro-actively peel away the layers and logic surrounding legacy processes and, where necessary, restructure and reallocate resources within your organization. Here are a few pointers to get you started:

  • Break Down Silos: Implement a plan that centralizes the storage and management of physical records, specimens, and other critical documentation offsite to gain economies of scale and establish a framework that enables the consistent application and enforcement of policies and processes.
  • Free Up Limited Bandwidth: Offload transactional and production functions to an experienced vendor to free up bandwidth and enable more strategic allocation of limited onsite resources.
  • Develop a Business Case: Work with a cross-functional team of stakeholders to develop a broader case for enterprise-wide information governance. This team should be comprised of critical stakeholders across the enterprise and include a representation of individuals who possess an in-depth understanding of current data types, record retention policies, and specimen storage processes such as Health Information, Laboratory, and IT managers.
  • Establish and Monitor Metrics: Measure results including cost savings, operational improvement and risk reduction — throughout each phase of the journey. This will enable you to refine and optimize as you go.

Note, you may face some internal resistance as there are many common misconceptions driven by the “the way things have always been done.” Address these misconceptions head on. Evaluate the opportunity tradeoffs associated with maintaining the status quo and clearly communicate the value of change to all critical stakeholders across your organization. Laboratories that do this successfully, in conjunction with the pointers above, will increase operational efficiencies, accelerate the integration of information and systems across the organization, and solidify your competitive position in today’s increasingly difficult healthcare environment.

Want to learn more about how you can optimize your organization’s enterprise-wide information governance efforts? Then check out: The Role of HIM in the New World of Information Governance.

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About the author

Michelle Urban

Michelle Urban is responsible for the product management and marketing of laboratory storage and workflow management solutions at Iron Mountain. She owns the development of specimen storage solutions from inception to execution, including market research and analysis, customer education and engagement, and go to market program development. In her previous role, Product Marketing Manager, Health Information Management, Michelle partnered with Linda Kloss, Founder of Kloss Strategic Advisors, to develop “Redefining the Role of Health Information Management in the New World of Information Governance,” a whitepaper that gained widespread popularity throughout the healthcare industry and even earned a coveted featured spot at the AHIMA National Conference 2014. Michelle earned her Bachelor’s Degree at Arcadia University and remains active in her local community through the Philadelphia Field Hockey Association (PFHA). She blogs on Health Information Management, Information Governance, Workflow Optimization, HIPAA Compliance, Specimen Storage, Good Laboratory Practices and BioRepositories. Follow me on Twitter @MichellePaster