Clinical administrators are optimizing their phlebotomy and High Throughput Screening (HTS) to meet constant challenges
Healthcare is still reeling from the pandemic, and while many regions have stabilized their HTS performance, it is definitely the beginning of a new era in terms of budget and expenditure. Costs of staff and products are soaring, inflation is volatile, and the economic outlook remains fragile amid a cost of living crisis.
These are the initiatives that clinical administrators have been implementing to deliver and maintain the best care available to their patients, retain their phlebotomy staff, keep labs processing their samples and maintain a culture of safety as a gold standard.
Blood collection is currently in need of specialists and technicians across the world. Unlike many professions, technicians are unable to work from home as a lot of lab work cannot be automated . Being a good phlebotomist requires more than just the ability to collect blood, and hospitals are instrumental in attracting, training, and offering pathways for career progression.
Remote working is largely impossible in phlebotomy
Unlike other functions in hospitals, phlebotomy is hands on - whether collecting blood, getting it to the lab, and working with samples within the lab. It cannot be done remotely. It’s a cost that continues to rise and is non-negotiable.
For the staff that remain, the hours are presently long. Advertised vacancies are not being filled and existing, depleted teams need to cover these shifts.
But the roles are valued, and to that end, employers must offer not only secure employment with attractive benefits, they must also offer pathways into the wider or more specialised medical professions.
A steady pipeline of skilled candidates
Gaining hands on training leading to a qualification and a job is vital for replacing sections of the workforce that have either left the profession or are nearing retirement age to ensure sufficient care for an aging population that is requiring healthcare for longer.
Once in the profession, to retain skilled staff requires that existing and new recruits don’t burn out. Burn-out takes considerable time to recover from, and strategies to prevent burnout in healthcare and keeping morale high are equally vital .
Administrators and executives recognise the value of their workforce and are investing in their staff because blood collection, for the most part, requires a hands-on interaction between a technician and their patients.
Where can the stresses upon staff and patient be eased
Collection in the community
Collecting blood in the community by trained healthcare personnel eases clinic visit volumes. Having to make repeated hospital visits can take plenty of planning and expense. For patients with limited mobility and other prohibitive circumstances, this service is essential.
Consolidating collection and storage centres
Sample collection depots located at strategically valuable geographic intersections allow for a consolidated approach for sample storage and transport to a processing and analysis facility to support HTS.
Reducing the strain of a patient’s visit, reducing the strain on staff and operating costs
Collecting blood in the hospital and clinics has also been optimised to protect core services. There’s a cost-of-living crisis, parking or transport can be expensive and a visit for the patient may mean missing an entire day off work or having to neglect vital errands. It’s a big expense for patients whose income may have been strained by their illness. It will also cause stress to weakened patients. To address these issues, clinics and hospitals have been implementing the following initiatives:
- Collection is completed early in the morning to free up a patient’s day
- Concentrating collection in the morning to lessen the operating costs for a clinic
- If the patient is receiving attendant treatment/appointments at the same centre; these can be scheduled on the same day
A crisis in blood supply
Blood bank drives have been significantly impacted by the pandemic. Community drives at businesses, schools and collection stations were all curtailed and have not recovered. Clinics are often relying on patients’ relatives to donate blood amid decreased participation from younger generations. Often, there is not enough staff to collect the blood .
Critical focuses for research funding, cited in Saillant et al. 2022, include:
- Optimizing blood banking practices
- Extending shelf life to avoid product wastage (i.e. cold-stored platelets)
- Exploring the potential for novel innovations such as synthetic blood component substitutes
Transparency in the health care supply chain manufacturers and their customers, the hospital and clinics, are working together to stabilize costs. Clinical administrators are able to demand a fuller service from their suppliers, not only with product quality, but with vital communication around supply forecasting and costs of product. Rigorous training in product use and customer support has also been expanded to meet demand and offer increased value.
Healthcare will need to be transformed
As expenditure increases, the viability of the present model for healthcare provision is being called into question. The entire model of healthcare is ripe for restructuring, and these will be met by round upon round of optimisations. But right now, the ambition of all hospitals and clinics is to:
- Maintain the safety of their staff and their patients
- Maintain their crucial functions
With thanks to Robert E. Del Guidice, Clinical Administrative Director Diagnostic Laboratory Services for the insights that have informed this series of articles.
,  Deloitte 2023 Global Health Care Outlook
 Saillant NN, Kornblith LZ, Moore H, Barrett C, Schreiber MA, Cotton BA, Neal MD, Makar R, Cap AP. The National Blood Shortage-An Impetus for Change. Ann Surg. 2022 Apr 1;275(4):641-643. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000005393. PMID: 35081570; PMCID: PMC9055632.
Safety and value, it’s in our blood
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