A Lab Week Perspective: The Achievements of Our Great Labs

Lab Week is a great time to reflect on the accomplishments of our Laboratories. This year it seems our focus is more about what is left to do. So let’s take a minute to applaud ourselves for some pretty impressive achievements. CAP accreditation is number one. Every Lab participated in a very focused CAP survey administered by an experienced Mayo Clinic accreditation team. This was no simple feat. Everyone put hours of preparation to ensure that we achieved accreditation. (Way to go, Team Hopkins!)

Our test menu continues to grow. We have added 11 new assays across Microbiology, the Molecular Laboratory, Cytogenetics, and the Core Laboratories. Nine stains have also been added to Immunopathology. While our test menu has increased, so has our Outreach program which has now expanded in to the D.C. market and grown by 4%. (Expansion is always good.)

Transfusion Medicine has been busy, as well. Through close utilization monitoring they have reduced the use of blood products by at least $500,000. They just completed an exciting project that interfaces their current Blood Bank system with an automated refrigerator to dispense products to the ORs. This will save tremendous time for staff who will no longer pack OR coolers. Only products that are going to be transfused will be removed from the HemoSafe. This should improve wastage as well. (Less coolers are always better.)

CareFusion was implemented in Phlebotomy and across the Hospital. This barcode identification and tracking system has reduced misdrawn samples especially by non-phlebotomists. There are some early indications that it might have had an impact on duplicate tests and duplicate phlebotomies. The Phlebotomy team also picked up blood cultures across the Hospital and decreased the contamination rate. (By the way, please compliment anyone who is wearing a purple uniform.)

A tremendous effort has gone into the renovations in Weinberg to support the OR moves to the new building and preparations in the Core Laboratories for their move and automation implementation. Weinberg Surgical Pathology staff have weathered dust, noise, and disruption to emerge with a more spacious and better designed workflow to support specimen receipt, accessioning, and grossing. The Core Laboratory has worked to validate all 10 instruments on the new automated line and test the interface between the line and PDS. Over 50 employees have been trained. The line has the potential to do over 100 different assays. (More space feels so good.)

What is even more impressive is that we have achieved all of this and will likely meet our Hospital budget and slightly fall short of our University budget. Both our Pro Fee billing group and our independent Lab billing group are exceeding their goals. (Thanks for helping us hit our targets.)

Now what lies ahead? This weekend begins the 10-day move into the new building. Staff have committed to extra hours. The pneumatic tube expands from 150 stations to 175 stations. Folks outside of the moving Labs have volunteered to assist in moving specimens during the transition period. Others will man a command center to assist with patient or operational issues if they arise. (The move requires an army.)

Two huge computer projects are well underway: SCC Soft in the clinical labs and EPIC hospital system. SCC Soft is planned to go live on June 23rd in Microbiology, Immunology, and the Core Laboratories. Over 600 people have been trained, and we are in the final phases of testing. EPIC will be the new hospital system for JHM. Key dates for this rollout are April 1, 2013 for Johns Hopkins outpatients and June 30, 2013 for Howard County General Hospital and Sibley Memorial Hospital. (IT is about to undergo a dramatic revitalization.)

Microbiology is embarking on new organism identification technology – MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry. With this system organism ID goes from days to hours. Currently Micro is building an organism library in the hundreds. The impact on patient care will be dramatic. (I am seeing a new video theme next year.)

We continue to plan collaborative efforts among our affiliates. We will do more regulatory consultations, as well as identify reference laboratory support as needed. (It’s time to make some new friends.)

Each year the Department’s response to challenges amazes me. Again this year, we will be faced with budget cuts. I am sure that our team will rise up to meet the pressure and respond with even more patient care support. I am fortunate because I get to work with the best Pathology team in the world. We are innovative, quality-oriented, and systematic. (None of this is a secret to anyone who is a member of the Johns Hopkins Department of Pathology.)

Thanks so much and have a great Lab Week.


Al Valentine
Administrator for Clinical and Financial Affairs
Department of Pathology
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Baltimore, Maryland