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Lab Lessons from COVID-19:
Best-of-Breed Systems Enable Stronger Response

by Michelle Del Guercio | September 1, 2020 | Blog

As health systems recover from revenue declines, furloughs and layoffs while maintaining readiness for future coronavirus outbreaks, system leaders are now more likely to scrutinize spending for fiscal responsibility. If your organization is considering a shift from best-of-breed laboratory technology to an enterprise-wide system and EHR with a patchwork of add-on applications, now is an important time to elevate this question: During a pandemic, is it fiscally responsible to spend millions moving away from best-of-breed laboratory systems that work?

Such a change could diminish autonomous lab capabilities and weaken lab-specific data streams – all this, at a time when lab data should be used more robustly to help identify clinical strategies for intervention, prevention, cost reduction, cost avoidance and risk adjustment. Because best-of-breed lab systems typically have the most advanced and flexible reporting functionality, they can drive predictive modeling for slowing disease progression, decreasing lengths of stay and improving outcomes.

Consider these lessons learned from the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, a time of tremendous pressure on labs and expectation to perform quickly, accurately and compliantly:

About the author
Michelle Del Guercio Vice President Product Marketing
Michelle Del Guercio
Vice President, Marketing

Michelle’s passion for healthcare, with specific focus on the laboratory, started with her first job as a specimen courier. Now, as an industry veteran with more than 30 years’ experience, her passion is fueled by providing healthcare organizations with practical and strategic methods in which they can utilize enterprise laboratory solutions to support the success of their organization – and drive towards better patient care.

    • Scalability:

      Best-of-breed lab system vendors are uniquely designed to respond quickly to emerging and evolving situations. The ability to scale up rapidly – from new tests to new instruments, interfaces and locations – is critical for combatting new outbreaks and meeting recommendations for testing volumes.

      One very timely example is the Sunquest COVID-19 Essential Suite, which provides the tools laboratories need to quickly stand up testing and broaden interoperability reach to physician customers. The suite includes rapid implementation of electronic COVID-19 test orders with reliable results support, instrument connectivity, and workflows for both active and past infection through RT-PCR and serology testing. This plug-and-play solution allows independent labs, molecular labs and smaller hospitals to promptly start and scale up COVID-19 testing while focusing on efficiency and accuracy.

    • Reporting:

      Outbreaks are strong reminders that healthcare is a community issue, and data must flow in many directions to support multiple case touchpoints. COVID-19 required a range of new reporting capabilities and exchanges to support this web of data flow – an exercise in flexibility and expertise that EHR vendors are less likely to deliver under such highly accelerated circumstances. Sunquest customers are able to respond to reporting needs at the federal and state levels with Ad Hoc Report templates and electronic lab reporting (ELR) interfaces that provide a consistent, efficient and accurate set of reports for COVID-19 reporting.

      “Labs are being asked to gather and report a lot of additional information, all of which is really important for clinical and public health decision making. It also helps epidemiologists understand the performance of newly approved tests, the effectiveness of clinical interventions, and eventually, patient outcomes.”

      — Nicole Green, PhD, D(ABMM), Director, Public Health Laboratories, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health

  • 2.    
    • Advanced molecular solutions support SARS-CoV-2 testing.
    • The complexity of molecular diagnostics requires proven lab vendor expertise and a LIS that is purposely built to support a wide range of testing. In addition to helping labs increase test volume with scalable processes that reduce turnaround time for molecular and genetic workflows (which is especially important during times of social distancing and stressed resources), Sunquest Mitogen™ LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System) enables rapid accessioning of samples across three pre-configured RT-PCR and serology workflows for FDA-authorized COVID-19 tests.

  • 3.    
    • Agility is crucial to meeting new demands without disrupting service delivery.
    • Best-of-breed lab systems excel at responding to new needs and trends. Because chronic illnesses and diseases like cancer don’t pause for pandemics/epidemics – but non-essential face-to-face interactions do – health systems with best-of-breed lab technology can better support telehealth, digital pathology/pathology from home and other newer technologies. Sunquest PowerPath®, Sunquest CoPathPlus™ and Sunquest VUE™, for example, are robust solutions that strengthen anatomic pathology diagnostics across multiple settings, situations and workflows.

  • 4.    
    • Sacrificing lab capabilities with EWS solutions can have far-reaching effects.
    • Best-of-breed lab systems are designed to deliver the right diagnosis quickly, while enterprise EHR solutions require a range of additional (and costly) third-party software and middleware platforms, as well as instrument and blood banking interfaces. Even slight declines in clinical integration can spur unwanted ripple effects, including longer turnaround times and patient safety risks. Additionally, by creating a true closed-loop process, Sunquest Collect™ allows for specimens to be drawn quickly and labeled accurately at the bedside, with rapid turnaround on results to providers. With or without a pandemic, best-of-breed solutions deliver more without costing more.

  • 5.    
    • Many Sunquest customers have expanded their lab operations for an effective COVID-19 response with very little additional cost.
    • From new reporting exchanges to the launch of molecular testing, current Sunquest customers were able to rapidly implement new tools at little or no additional cost, and often without needing additional resources from Sunquest. That’s because the underlying infrastructure of Sunquest solutions is built to meet anticipated lab-based needs. Sunquest knows the lab. Further, organizations that are not already Sunquest customers can stand up the physician portal and LIMS for COVID-19 testing with a rapid 30-day implementation. With EHR, there are often so many enterprise projects in queue that time-sensitive lab projects can face long delays – which may be particularly detrimental when responding to a public health emergency.

COVID-19 cast new light on what Sunquest customers already know: A laboratory cannot function optimally with enterprise EHR solutions, at least not without surrounding support from best-of-breed lab systems. Despite some progress, EWS lab solutions remain unable to deliver the levels of support, expertise, agility and sophistication needed for effective responses to COVID-19 and all public/community health issues. With best-of-breed lab systems, the path to better outcomes becomes easier and far more cost-effective. For more information, visit:

Contact us to discuss what we can do for your organization.

About the author
Michelle Del Guercio Vice President Product Marketing
Michelle Del Guercio
Vice President, Marketing

Michelle’s passion for healthcare, with specific focus on the laboratory, started with her first job as a specimen courier. Now, as an industry veteran with more than 30 years’ experience, her passion is fueled by providing healthcare organizations with practical and strategic methods in which they can utilize enterprise laboratory solutions to support the success of their organization – and drive towards better patient care.

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Posted on by Jay Griggs