Early Adopters Embracing the Benefits of Outsourced Specimen Storage

By: In: Healthcare On: Sep 10, 2015
Early Adopters Embracing the Benefits of Outsourced Specimen Storage

While laboratories predominantly store ambient samples onsite, citing ready access and control as the primary driver, forward thinking labs are increasing outsourcing this resource intense, non-core function. In fact, as reported in the G-2 Intelligence whitepaper “Could Specimen Storage Outsourcing Help Labs Compete In Today’s Cost Conscious Environment?“, roughly half of the laboratories interviewed send specimens offsite or to a third party vendor for storage. Now admittedly, the research is founded on a relatively small qualitative sample, but that should not dismiss the fact that labs are in fact outsourcing this function today, and rather successfully, as was depicted by the case studies.

In the first case study, the laboratory was challenged by a fragmented internal storage approach. All the specimens were stored onsite but scattered across multiple rooms, facilities, and even rental spaces. This was problematic for several reasons:

  1. It made it difficult to ensure each storage space had the required temperature controls.
  2. Specimen storage space onsite was becoming increasing hard to come by.
  3. The costs associated with rental space were consistently rising.

In the second case study, the laboratory stored their slides and block specimens in a hospital owned warehouse along with radiology films. Only one full time employee (FTE) was required to support retrieval and refiling of all slides, blocks and radiology films. This was cost-effective but, at times, problematic. With the natural ebbs and flows of pathologists’ requests, a single large research order could consume the FTE’s bandwidth and result in delays in service. What’s more, as the hospital transitioned to digital radiology film, the number of hard copy radiology films produced began to decrease. Therefore, the needs for the warehouse were decreasing while the cost of facility ownership and maintenance continued to increase. This led the hospital to begin to question whether the benefits outweighed the expense.

Two distinctly different challenges with a very similar solution: In both cases, the laboratories chose to leverage a vended offsite storage solution. Initial concerns that moving specimens offsite would negatively impact turnaround times and, in turn, result in a stream of pathologist complaints, proved unfounded. Each lab experienced relatively few, if any, complaints from pathologists regarding the new process and turn around times. What’s more, specimens are now consistently preserved in a temperature-controlled environment, limiting the risk of degradation while freeing up onsite space and/or resources previously dedicated to managing storage.

As these case studies so clearly depict, while there is comfort in having specimens onsite, that comfort may not be worth the cost to the larger organization. Given the advancement in vended storage environments and tracking technologies, outsourced storage solutions can provide equal, or in some cases better, specimen storage value and outcomes.

Check out the full research study to take a deeper dive and learn more about specimen storage trends emerging in the laboratory industry.

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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