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The lab-patient connection

July 30, 2021 | Daniel Doll

The patient journey is central to everything we do in the healthcare industry. When it comes to clinical lab testing and lab management software, that lab-patient connection isn't always visible, but it's still the driving force that motivates the industry every day.

The center of diagnostic medicine

According to the Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine journal, the laboratory is the nerve center of diagnostic medicine, because it provides "essential information not only for diagnosis and monitoring, but also for screening, prevention, early diagnosis, tailored treatment, and the more effective monitoring of human diseases."

Lab tests are ordered in 29% and 38% of family physician and general internist visits, and lab work is key in patient decision-making.

Royce Zeiler, Laboratory Solutions Consultant
It always hits home for me when I visit oncology groups. The staff have such a close bond with their patients.

Royce Zeiler, Laboratory Solutions Consultant

Laboratory Solutions Consultant Royce Zeiler has worked with laboratories nationwide and has seen the personal connection that results from the laboratory's critical role in patient care.

"It always hits home for me when I visit oncology groups," Royce said. "The staff have such a close bond with their patients. They know patients are undergoing treatment and that the test results from the lab can have a huge, emotional impact on many people's lives."

Promoting patient-centeredness

According to a study in the Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, a lack of patient-centeredness is one of the seven major root causes of errors between primary care offices and clinical laboratories.

By emphasizing the lab-patient connection, laboratories can offer better service and the fast, accurate results that lead to informed healthcare decision-making. Communication is key, and offices should empower patients to contact them with any questions or issues concerning lab results.

When lab techs feel a connection to the patients they serve, there is an inherent motivation to deliver accurate results and low turnaround times every day.

In the case of end-of-life care, that lab-patient connection extends outward to a patient's family and loved ones.

Carl Smith is the general manager of the lab division at CompuGroup Medical, and he experienced firsthand this important, extended connection.

"I am always mindful of the great service our clinical laboratories provide," Carl said. "When my mom became ill, quick testing allowed my family to extend the time we had left with her."

Thanks to the work put in by our clinical lab technicians, families are able to spend more time with loved ones, creating lasting memories and supporting one another through challenging times.

Beth Schmitt, Account Manager
Working in a POL was the most rewarding job that I ever had.

Beth Schmitt, Account Manager

A personal connection

The lab division at CompuGroup Medical consists of many former lab managers and technicians, and they all have stories about the personal connection between the lab and its patients.

"Working in a POL was the most rewarding job that I ever had," said Beth Schmitt, a former lab manager for a Princeton, Indiana, physician office lab.

"From the beginning, I collected all specimens and spent time with each and every patient. They became like family to me, and it was always a joy to celebrate as they confided the happenings in their lives to me or to sympathize with them when they shared their griefs."

Beth shared the story of one patient who responded well to treatment, but ultimately succumbed to pancreatic cancer when their symptoms returned. After more than 30 years caring for that patient, Beth was happy to hear about them spending their time doing the things that brought them joy.

"A few months later, I read about them in the paper, and I was glad that they were able to go fishing until the end," she said.

Before joining the team at CGM, Senior HL7 Integration Engineer Helen McMillan was an ASCP-certified Medical Laboratory Technician for physician and hospital labs in Florida and Maryland.

Helen McMillan, Senior HL7 Integration Engineer
There was that feeling of elation when I saw an improvement in a patient's results.

Helen McMillan, Senior HL7 Integration Engineer

"Working in a POL put me in contact with patients and always made me more conscientious of myself and how I represent the lab," said Helen. "It put a personal touch on what I did, as it became more than just running tests. There was that feeling of elation when I saw an improvement in a patient's results but also heartache whenever results indicated their condition was worsening."

For lab techs like Helen, there is a steady reminder that the specimens labs process belong to real people who are relying on accurate results.

Despite the stress and grind associated with clinical lab work, the majority of lab techs report experiencing high job satisfaction. The lab-patient connection drives this satisfaction and makes lab testing, as Beth said, "the most rewarding job that I ever had."

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