"Market Update"

Allina Opens State-of-the-Art Central Laboratory Facility

THIS MONTH, THE NATION’S NEWEST “designed from scratch” clinical laboratory facility began operating in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is the central laboratory of Allina Hospitals & Clinics and its design is rooted in Lean and similar process improvement and workflow principles.

The $29 million new facility consolidates laboratories from 12 locations in five different Allina buildings into a single core laboratory. The project also completes the consolidation, from multiple sites, for histology and microbiology in the Allina system.

The new lab was built in a former warehouse on a single floor, using 82,000 square feet, including a 6,000-square-foot storage facility for surgical blocks, slides, and records. The project also includes the remodeling of space that remains in the main hospital, Abbott Northwestern Hospital, which is located one block away. This space is used for frozen sections, phlebotomy, blood product distribution, cell therapy, and outpatient reception and blood drawing.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” noted Rick Panning, Vice President, of Lab Services. “We set out to design a lab for today that will serve us into the future.”

Panning and his team used the continuous improvement approach in the physical space design and workflow of the new facility. “Our Lean consultant, Mike Hogan from Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, trained eight members of our lab staff to work with the architects and laboratory technical and management staff on designing the space,” he said. “They were all trained in Lean last summer and started the design in August. The design was finished in December.

“By using Lean methods and automation, we designed a work flow that will allow us to handle increased testing without having to increase our current staff,” he explained. “In addition, we’re implementing automation, such as a new Abbott Diagnostics APS line in the core lab, a new Sysmex HST line in hematology, and a new Becton Dickinson instrument to do automated plating in microbiology.”

Lean and Automation

Panning expects that the combination of Lean and automation will allow Allina Medical Laboratories to improve productivity and efficiency over time. “Also, expected retirements and attrition will allow us to decrease our staff levels without the need for layoffs now, or in the future,” he stated. “That is a good thing for our staff in uncertain economic climates.”

Allina estimates that its system-wide test volume will soon reach 9 million tests annually. “We plan to grow our outreach busi- ness by 10% per year, and are supporting it by adding new equipment to run more tests in-house and improve turnaround times,” commented Panning.

“The new laboratory facility has additional space so we can expand virology, molecular, and toxicology testing,” he said. “There is also planned expansion in testing for microarray, immunology, and special chemistry.”

The official opening of the laboratory will be in February. Different lines of laboratory testing are moving to the new facility now. The core lab, which includes chemistry, hematology, coagulation, urinalysis, the blood bank, specimen processing, and microbiology, will be moved by the end of February.

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