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● Laboratory Information Systems

Streamline care with anytime, anywhere lab info access

Carolina Health Specialists implements a sophisticated laboratory information system.


ver the past 20 years, Leah Stevens, director of laboratory services for Carolina Health Special- ists (CHS), a multi-specialty practice located in Myrtle Beach, S.C., has seen her fair share of

change. But nothing compares to what she faces now. With looming reimbursement changes, new payer rules and gov- ernment mandates, planning has become diffi cult. “It’s hard to plan for the future when you’re unsure of the direction healthcare is headed,” says Stevens. In addition to pending regulatory changes, CHS has had to deal with the fact that reimbursements keep going down, while costs don’t. As a result, staff has to continually fi nd ways to improve effi ciency and productivity. For Stevens, this meant fi nding a sophisticated laboratory information system (LIS) that would help her add value to her organization and the customers – both providers and patients – she serves.

Streamlining care CHS processes almost 100,000 lab requests a year, roughly

equivalent to that of a community hospital. T e practice also works with a network of reference labs, and it was becoming increasingly challenging to interact with these labs using their existing system. So, in 2010, staff started looking for a new system that would enable them to achieve their goal of pro- viding the best quality product – meaning lab information or test results – quickly and effi ciently so their physicians could use that information to determine their patients’ healthcare protocol.

After eight months of due diligence, it was clear to CHS that not all LIS were created equal. However, with Merge LIS, CHS found a robust solution that not only interfaces with their EMR system and reference labs, but also securely provides access to lab information anywhere, anytime. Because it’s Web based, Merge LIS provides access through- out a facility or remote locations to a central database for or-

26 February 2013

Leah Stevens is director of laboratory services for Carolina Health Specialists. For more on Merge: www.

ders, inquiries, quality control and reporting. “Our physicians appreciate being able to access lab results from anywhere,” says Stevens. “T ey can review results from their laptop or smartphone and put together treatment regimens in a fraction of the time it used to take.” Another unique feature to Merge LIS is the customization of pick lists based on specialty utilization. T e selection process is diff erent for each specialty; therefore, it’s much more effi cient for a technician to scroll through a customized list of top-50 tests versus a never-ending list containing thousands. Results can be accessed from any Web-enabled device. Once logged in securely, the lab results are presented in a PDF format that is easy to read and interpret. Physicians can quickly see which test results are in or out of range based on color-coded boxes. Results in green boxes are within expected range, results in yellow boxes are out of range and results in red boxes are critically out of range and need immediate attention. Patient-centric needs are driving LIS adoption as well. Gen- erally speaking, specimen samples are viable for only a certain amount of time. “If a sample is drawn in the morning in our laboratory, it is typically tested the same day,” says Stevens. “If you don’t have a dependable LIS and the system goes down, it makes it diffi cult to test your samples. And any type of delay in test results can have a negative impact on patient care and provider confi dence in the laboratory’s reliability.” One of the most anticipated features on the horizon for

Merge LIS is the code-check functionality. Using an LIS with a code-check feature can improve cus- tomer satisfaction in terms of billing and reimbursement. A sophisticated LIS will inform staff when a CPT code is not the best match for the testing that was ordered. A message can be sent immediately to the provider to request an additional diagnosis code(s). T is saves the practice valuable time and money that might otherwise be spent on administrative func- tions related to reverse billing and/or billing resubmission. T e


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