Medical Laboratory Professionals Week: A vital role in COVID-19 response
In the midst of the current global pandemic, social distancing has become the new norm. As businesses close and people stay in their homes, laboratory professionals play a vital role in COVID-19 response and the important need for properly trained and staffed labs in hospitals across America.
Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, April 19-25, is an annual celebration of medical laboratory professionals and pathologists who play an important role in healthcare and patient advocacy.
As a clinical lab scientist with over 25 years in the lab and on the IT side, I spoke recently with a colleague to answer a few questions about medical laboratory professionals and their importance during this time.
Q: How do care providers rely and trust lab test results?
A: There are very strict rules and policies that must be followed in the lab to ensure the right result is reported out on the right patient. Many laboratories invest in accreditation programs and continued proficiency testing to validate instrumentation is functioning correctly and staff are performing tests in accordance with laboratory procedures and guidelines.
Due to the critical nature of what they do, labs are highly regulated and require medical technologists and technicians to obtain education qualifications, certifications and continued training.
Q: How do medical laboratory professionals play a vital role in COVID-19 response?
A: The work that medical laboratory professionals do provides the clinical support for the diagnosis of COVID-19. We have already seen examples of the spread of COVID-19 due to lack of testing or patient awareness. That positive or negative result impacts patient response in our communities and the isolation protocols to minimize the spread of the virus. But the testing extends far beyond a positive or negative confirmation of COVID-19 for many patients. Laboratory testing provides daily monitoring of the medical status of critically ill patients, therapeutic drug monitoring to ensure the correct amounts of medications are provided and assist patient care teams with providing the best possible outcomes and treatment plans.
Q: 70% of today’s medical decisions depend on laboratory test results. How important is the role of clinical laboratories in today’s healthcare system and what steps are being taken to respond to the current pandemic?
A: Inaccurate or missed results can lead to a missed diagnosis. Patients rely on clinicians to provide answers and manage healthcare concerns, and clinicians rely on laboratories to provide accurate and reliable results to help make the best clinical decisions. Introduction of new lab testing to the market can be very complex and often takes years to develop, test and deploy under high regulatory scrutiny. The FDA waived testing criteria during this time, enabling labs to work alongside commercial manufacturers to develop tests with new instruments in a fast timeframe. The workload for many labs has dramatically increased due to COVID-19 testing. In many cases, this increase in demand has laboratories scrambling to add instrumentation and reporting mechanisms, provide new or more reagents and control testing, and implement additional procedures and staff training. Both manufacturers and laboratories are working to meet the clinical demands imposed by this pandemic.
Q: How have you been working as part of Allscripts C19 response?
A: I’m on the Allscripts COVID 19 response team and responsive to our client’s needs. We have had multiple support calls from customers who urgently need assistance to be able to support COVID-19 testing in the lab, including:
- Configuration changes
- Addition of new beds and locations
- Changes to test builds
- Interface changes to be able to send patients information to other systems
- New interfaces for reference lab reporting
- New instrument interfaces for new testing devices
- New test build for the new tests that come out
- New State public health reporting regulations to change the frequency of reporting from a few times a day to hourly or multiple times a day
- And addition of unscheduled Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine – Clinical Terms (SNOMED CT®) and Logical Observation Identifiers Names and Codes (LOINC)
Q: What is FEMA reporting and how has Allscripts helped hospitals with it?
A: The office of the Vice President of the United States sent a letter to all hospitals in America a few weeks ago asking them for statistical testing data to be emailed to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) each night at 5 p.m. on any in-house COVID-19 testing.
The Allscripts Lab services and development teams successfully presented a solution which fulfills the VP’s request. It provides Allscripts Lab customers with a fast and accurate way to comply and create the daily report needed to communicate and summarize COVID-19 testing done at hospital in-house labs. Allscripts Sunrise™ clients with Clinical Performance Management (CPM) can get a similar report through CPM.
Q: What are the key features of the report?
A: This solution makes it easy for Allscripts Lab customers to generate the daily COVID-19 FEMA report, containing all the requested data elements and allows the laboratory to focus on providing the critical services they need to provide.
The data collected will be analyzed by FEMA and Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) professionals and assist the Corona Virus Task Force to ensure state, local, tribal and territorial governments receive the supplies and support they need, including medical supplies critical to overcome the spreading of the pandemic.
The laboratory has always been there, behind the scenes, supporting patient care teams. This current global pandemic highlights the key role that laboratorians play in the entire healthcare space and how critical it is in patient care.