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Laying a solid foundation for LIS selection.

The author is a management consultant and educator, director of Health Management Alia lysts, Los Gatos Calif.; and laboratory opera tons advisor, Ernst & Whinney, Chicago. The choice made in acquiring or upgrading a laboratory information system (LIS) can have a major impact on the efficiency, productivity, and cost-effectiveness of your laboratory.

Numerous articles have outlined the steps to take before you select that all-important computer or improve your existing system. They recommend a needs analysis, determination of an appropriate interface with the institution's system, and visits to users of the systems most favored. Some even recommend bringing in an LIS consulting firm to guide you along the way and serve as your advocate in thc decision-making process.

Few of these articles, however, address the basic issues of the effectiveness and efficiency of your operational systems. They assume your needs analysis will reflect a tightly run operation and a recognition of future LIS needs, both in and outside the laboratory.

LIS consultants are seldom equipped to evaluate laboratory operations since they are not laboratorians. And a vendor cannot afford to lose a sale by suggesting you must get your shop in order so the new system will not compound operational inefficiencies. I recently conducted an informal survey of several major LIS vendors to find out what they had experienced in trying to sell their systems. All agreed that most laboratories needed an operations review to insure proper work flow, delivery of service, and employee acceptance.

Vendors said many laboratories did not know how to do a needs analysis, and if they did one, it often prepetuated existing inefficiencies and obsolete practices. It was uncommon for a lab to survey the needs of other departments within the institution in order to insure acceptance of a system that would affect their operations.

Some vendors also experienced hostility when performing an inhouse demonstration. Employees seemed to fear the computer would bring major changes into their work area, and they treated the vendor representatives in an unprofessional manner.

Another vendor concern was some clients' lack of awareness about how use of the purchased LIS could be optimized. One vendor stated that its system could do many things for the laboratory if the proper requests were made.

Finally, vendors unanimously agreed that their systems were often blamed for problems that could have been avoided through improvement of lab operations.

What is necessary then for proper selection of an LIS'? Laboratory directors and managers may not want to accept or acknowledge the answer. You should contract with an appropriate consulting firm for a total operations review of your laboratory before you begin your LIS needs analysis, specification determination, and final selection. I use the term appropriate because it is important that the consulting firm have individuals who understand the technical and administrative functions of the lab, the interface with other departments, and available laboratory information systems., and also know about present and projected information and artificial intelligence needs.

Contracting for an operations review can alarm many lab managers. They tend to feel that their ability to manage will be questioned and that the consultants may suggest they be replaced.

Only the insecure and incompetent need fear that outcome. The secure, confident manager should welcome an outside opinion as to how his or her operations might be improved. Consultants not only bring a broad spectrum of expertise to the job, but they also can offer a wealth of experience acquired from institutions across the country.

Astute managers will suggest an operations review by an outside consultant before administration decides it is needed. They will demonstrate to administration their willingness to undergo the review to benefit the hospital as well as the laboratory. They will acknowledge that the LIS selection will have an immediate major financial impact on the institution as well as an ongoing influence on laboratory and institutional costs. Laboratory managers who take this approach can only benefit in the end. Fear and insecurity should not stand in the way of doing the job right to begin with.
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Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:laboratory information system
Author:Barros, Annamarie
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Article Type:column
Date:Oct 1, 1988
Words:671
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