BOTH NATIONAL LABORATORIES now face a future where growth is not likely to come from a steady stream of sizeable laboratory acquisitions. That makes service enhancements a more important way to protect market share and build client loyalty.
At Laboratory Corporation of America, this strategy can be seen in a letter the company recently distributed to its clients. Dated October 28, 2008, it was addressed “Dear Valued Client” and was signed by LabCorp CEO David King.
The letter described four specific service improvements that would be of benefit to the client physician. First was an invitation to visit “LabCorp’s new Web site”, which includes such new functions as expanded test search capabilities, a patient health library, and additional “features and time-saving tools.”
The second new service improvement is designed to address the problem of insufficent draw quantity. LabCorp has created AccuDraw. This is a computer decision support system for its phlebotomists. AccuDraw evaluates each test request for individual patients, then guides the phlebotomist through the tube types and volume needed, order of draw, and instructions for special handling.
The third service improvement touted in King’s letter is the new capability to do a “HPV high risk reflex” test when the original specimen won’t yield “sufficient residual specimen volume after the Pap preparation to perform the HPV test.” The benefit of this new assay is that it reduces the number of times that a patient needs to be called back to recollect an adequate specimen for the additional testing.
Specimen Tracking System
Fourth service improvement described in the LabCorp letter is the announcement that the company has purchased and implemented “a new, state-of-the art specimen tracking system—originally created by UPS.” It says it expects “improvements in turnaround time and a move to real- time specimen tracking with built-in alerts for misplaced specimens.”
CEO David King ends the letter by inviting clients to email or call him with ideas or suggestions. He provides a phone number and an email address that can be used by clients.
For independent labs and hospital lab outreach programs, this letter is a reminder that the service status quo in the marketplace is not likely to remain constant. LabCorp hopes these types of service enhancements will raise the competitive bar in its favor. Likewise, Quest Diagnostics Incorporated is implementing its own operational improvements to raise its service levels.
These are reasons why competing laboratories should have their own strategies to improve their services. What is acceptable service to a client physician today may not be good enough tomorrow.