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VUMC Diagnostic Laboratories expand, improve services

Jul. 19, 2018, 8:57 AM


Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Diagnostic Laboratories continue to expand in-house services in order to more efficiently diagnose and treat patients. A recent survey indicates clinicians’ overall satisfaction with the efforts.

Following one of the Medical Center’s four Strategic Directions, “Amplify Innovation,” the Diagnostic Laboratories team has already added several new tests to their in-house services, and additional new tests will be implemented soon. The new tests are designed to increase the speed and accuracy of diagnosing infectious diseases through molecular techniques.

The first addition in April 2017 was the Verigene assay that allows rapid molecular identification of blood-borne bacteria, reducing the time for diagnosis from days to just hours. This was followed by the May 2018 introduction of new rapid respiratory and gastrointestinal pathogen tests using the Biofire instrument. This has markedly reduced turnaround times for analyzing specimens from 18-36 hours to less than two hours.

“Our laboratory leaders are to be commended for these efforts that are driving operational efficiencies and improving patient outcomes. I want to express my appreciation to everyone involved for this outstanding work and look forward to even greater progress as new tests are brought online,” said C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Health System Officer for VUMC.

On the horizon are three additional testing modalities set to be implemented in the next six to nine months, including molecular testing for Trichomonas, improved molecular analysis for the rapid diagnosis of influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and MALDI-TOF, a proteomic technique for identification of bacterial species in positive cultures from many sources. These will further reduce turnaround times for lab results and increase the accuracy of diagnoses.

Adam Seegmiller, MD, PhD

“As a large academic medical center, we serve a diverse patient population that come to us with complex issues,” said Adam Seegmiller, MD, PhD, executive medical director of the VUMC Clinical Laboratories.

“It’s critical that we provide laboratory results quickly and accurately, so our clinical providers can deliver appropriate, and often lifesaving, care to patients in a timely fashion. These added services have resulted in remarkable improvements allowing our clinical colleagues to focus more on patient care, rather than waiting for lab results.”

“When the College of American Pathologists, the national organization that accredits labs, came for a site visit in May, the customer satisfaction survey that was included in that process was our first opportunity to get a true sense of how we were doing in terms of meeting the Medical Center’s needs after the eStar launch,” said Eileen Ricker, Interim Administrative Director for the Diagnostic Laboratory. “Although the laboratories had a few areas that needed adjustment immediately after the launch, the survey indicates that our customers trust our results and value our work.”

While some respondents expressed concern, recent data actually shows marked improvement in turnaround times for common lab tests has been achieved due to workflow changes associated with the eStar launch. In fact, current routine turnaround times are even quicker than those for “STAT” or urgent test orders from before the launch, Seegmiller said.

The survey’s respondents were physicians, nurses and other clinicians at Vanderbilt University Adult Hospital, Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital and Vanderbilt Health One Hundred Oaks.

Ninety-eight percent of those responding indicated they always (45), usually (40) or often (13) are confident that patient lab results are accurate and reliable. And 88 percent said the lab provides excellent service for patient care needs.

The biggest concern from the survey centered on ordering labs and viewing lab results in eStar, and those issues have been taken to the Epic teams to address, Ricker said.

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