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Enterprise Lab Vendor vs. Enterprise-Wide EMR Solutions: The True Value Behind Best-of-Breed

by Michelle Del Guercio | September 1, 2020 | Blog

As health systems move further into value-based care and experience new testing and technology demands alongside deeper revenue shortfalls fueled by disease outbreaks, the pitfalls of replacing best-of-breed lab systems with enterprise-wide system (EWS) modules have never been more pronounced. Many who transition to EWS (and an EHR/EMR with a patchwork of add-on applications) do so under the assumption it will save money and streamline vendor contracting, only to find that replacing best-of-breed lab technology quickly leads to interoperability issues, new gaps in care, service interruptions, and other drawbacks that require significant post-implementation expenses, contracts and staff hours to overcome.

Lab operations are the key to success in a value-based model, which means multi-lab networking, uninterrupted connectivity and high reliability are paramount. With best-of-breed systems and vendor support, laboratories have tremendous potential to drive predictive modeling for population health planning and for uncovering new clinical strategies that decrease lengths of stay, reduce readmissions, improve patient safety and advance preventive medicine to slow disease progression.

Consider the opportunity costs (often tens of millions of dollars) of changing out a system that already works extremely well. Rather than spending time and money migrating to EWS and patching the holes it will create, why not maintain best-of-breed laboratory operations and invest instead in strategic priorities that improve patient care – many of which your best-of-breed laboratory is already well-equipped to support? Below, we explore six important reasons why best-of-breed solutions deliver greater value on your investment and stronger advantages toward achieving your health system’s strategic imperatives.

  • 1.    
    • One partner means just one hand to shake, versus a disjointed system of third-party vendors.
    • Sunquest solutions are truly end-to-end – one vendor, one contract and one maintenance agreement is all you need for even the most complex lab operations across your enterprise. Our fully integrated laboratory enterprise suite encompasses clinical, anatomic pathology and molecular laboratory testing and workflow, including ambulatory/outreach business, as well as blood banking and transfusion management. Sunquest solutions unify processes and data, driving results-oriented workflows through improved collaboration and coordination with enterprise EHRs or multiple EHR systems. In addition, Sunquest solutions include built-in instrument connectivity and management through Data Innovations® Instrument Manager™, and at every point, Sunquest customers receive the advantages of business continuity, vision and support from experts who know the laboratory inside and out.

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.

    • By contrast, EWS solutions are built to focus on enterprise needs first and foremost. As a result, EWS lab modules tend to create (rather than close) gaps in care because they don’t provide the complete functionality of a best-of-breed LIS. Filling those divides requires a wide range of additional third-party software, workarounds and middleware purchases from several vendors, each with its own implementation schedule and maintenance agreement.

    • Pro Tip: Compare the Fundamentals. To fully assess both cost and impact of migrating from best-of-breed to EWS in the lab, be sure to carefully scrutinize whether the following key features and functionalities are built into their laboratory systems, or whether the EWS solution will require separate, third-party software and middleware purchases, interfaces, contracts/maintenance agreements, installations to achieve what comes seamlessly with best-of-breed laboratory systems. While different EWS vendors have different offerings, virtually none provide a single-source, end-to-end laboratory system (despite some claiming that they do). Use the information below to launch your inquiry into how EWS systems compare to the all-inclusive, “only one” lab solutions of Sunquest:

    • Instrument Interfacing & Connectivity

      Sunquest Laboratory™ (LIS) offers built-in interfaces with maintenance included for all types of lab instruments. Single contract for Sunquest and Data Innovations, which includes connectivity with Data Innovations Instrument Manager™ solution.

      Ambulatory (Outreach, Inreach and Outpatient)

      Sunquest Orders, Results and Specimen Coordination solutions (Sunquest Atlas) support the business of your lab, extending your reach throughout the physician and laboratory community. Includes suite of solutions to manage lab business across affiliated and non-affiliated physicians.

      Industry-Leading Molecular Diagnostics

      Sunquest Mitogen™ is a feature-rich LIMS with powerful patient-focused functionality and ability to scale up quickly.

      Third-party EMR Connectivity

      Sunquest Advanced EMR Connectivity℠ supports seamless integration with physician office EMRs and other external order sources.

      World-Class Blood Banking & Transfusions

      Sunquest Blood Bank™ and Sunquest Transfusion Manager™ provide fully integrated, closed-loop blood banking and transfusion management for greater patient safety.

      Sophisticated Multi-Lab Networking

      Sunquest Multi-Lab Networking℠ supports test sharing, test routing and joint test catalog management across a network regardless of LIS or EMR.

  • 2.    
    • Yes, transitioning away from best-of-breed costs time and money…and then some.
    • Switching to EWS in the lab is often presented as a one-time cost (tens of millions of dollars), with much of it described as free even though lab licensing, implementation, maintenance and upgrade fees are still there, just bundled at the enterprise level. These common misconceptions sometimes prompt health system leaders to choose EWS solutions without factoring the costs of external applications or the large, potentially seven-figure cost of conversion, instrument and system interfacing, and re-training.

    • Beyond that, using EWS solutions in the lab will come with yet another cost – a loss of freedom and flexibility within the lab to manage IT-related projects at the desired pace. With EWS, there are often so many enterprise projects in queue that time-sensitive lab projects – such as new instrument or EMR connectivity – often face long delays. By contrast, Sunquest delivers lab-centric systems, support and experience that keeps lab leaders in control of their own project timelines for rapidly needed enhancements, additions and modifications. That lab-centric focus helps ensure peak interoperability at all times, which positively impacts the enterprise in many ways.

  • 3.    
    • Fully integrated, closed-loop systems improve efficiency and patient safety.
    • From a patient safety standpoint, lowering the potential for human error is always the goal. From blood and tissue specimen collection and SMART barcode technology to fully integrated blood banking and transfusion management, Sunquest’s best-of-breed solutions “close the loop” between the lab and the bedside for greater safety and workflow efficiency.

    • The same cannot be said for EWS blood banking options, which include only purchasing agreements for open-loop, third-party software. These options do not provide the robust management and patient safety features of a clinically integrated, closed-loop solution. Only closed-loop systems provide the necessary feedback to effectively automate work and data flow, reduce inventory overhead with just in time electronic cross match capacities, and rapidly respond to mass transfusion and emergency release needs – all while delivering on the promise of patient safety.

  • 4.    
    • Optimal orders and results management is foundational for precision medicine, service line and organizational growth, and new revenue drivers.
    • Supporting complex, multi-disciplinary diagnostics requires simplified test ordering and routing systems combined with advanced but highly customizable reporting and data analytics. Best-of-breed systems are built to provide ordering guidance and deliver concise, consolidated and timely information back to the ordering physician, enabling rapid, reliable diagnoses and next steps. With orders coming from multiple sources – including new facilities from mergers and acquisitions – having best-of-breed tools for test routing and sharing ensures alignment with system-wide strategic initiatives for reducing costs, improving outcomes, and increasing physician satisfaction.

  • 5.    
    • The path to value-based care and other strategic priorities is paved with best-of-breed laboratory systems.
    • Labs are central hubs of information that can drive predictive modeling for value-based care and population health planning, decreasing lengths of stay, reducing readmissions, and unlocking preventive medicine to slow disease progression. Lab leaders with best-of-breed informatics and reporting functionalities are better equipped to help identify clinical strategies for intervention, prevention, cost reduction, cost avoidance and risk adjustment.

    • Service line modules within EWS may serve other areas well, but the lab is unique because it provides the basis for safe, effective clinical decisions that lead to better outcomes across all clinical areas. With revenue increasingly tied to quality and value-based care, it is in the best interest of the entire health system – including its clinicians, community partners and patients – to choose best-of-breed solutions and support for lab operations.

  • 6.    
    • When you rely on EWS solutions for lab operations, if the EHR goes down, the lab goes down.
    • Results from a 2019 study of patient care continuity suggest that lab test results are delayed by an average of 62% during EHR downtimes, compared to times of normal EHR system operation. The lab is critical, and such disruption is unacceptable because it works against every health system goal for patient care and safety. For greater contingency, higher reliability and more consistent uptime, best-of-breed laboratory solutions provide the better choice.

Bottom line: When lab operations are optimized, the whole health system benefits. Rapid and reliable ordering, testing and analytical capabilities improve provider satisfaction, patient satisfaction, turnaround times for results (which can affect length of stay), patient safety and more. The superior agility, expertise and interoperability of best-of-breed systems combine to drive higher efficiency, productivity and profitability. Even where health systems do choose to implement EWS solutions, surrounding support from best-of-breed solutions is necessary to ensure optimal operations and maximum benefits. For more information, visit:

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

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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