What are lost and missing specimens costing your lab? Seven questions to ask about your specimen and medical courier systems.

A few years ago, the University of Minnesota Medical Center (UMMC) suspected that their lab operations were experiencing an unacceptable number of lost and missing specimens. After a brief investigation, they were able to quantify the problem: On average the lab was losing track of 25 to 30 specimens per month. Digging deeper into the problem, the Center’s Lost Specimen Review Committee determined that failures in transportation and delivery processes were at the root of most missing specimens.[1]

The investigation at UMMC revealed that most labs experience the same problems to one degree or another, but most also consider lost specimens a regular part of doing business. While they obviously don’t set out to lose specimens, they gradually develop an attitude of inevitability and acceptance. That, of course, opens the door to numerous problems that can pose a considerable cost burden for any medical provider.

The good news for UMMC is that their project team was able to dig into the problem, uncover the root causes, and implement a process of continuous improvement that dramatically reduced the number of missing specimens to near zero within two years.

But what about your organization? Do you know how much lost specimens are costing each year? In another study, Northwell Health and the Hofstra North Shore – LIJ School of Medicine found that lost specimens, including those that were eventually located, consumed about 15 additional labor hours and had a direct cost of almost $500 per event[2]. But what about the indirect costs that arise from the loss of trust that develops between doctors, patients, and the lab when specimens are lost? That’s an even bigger factor that’s almost impossible to quantify.

Cost of missing specimen

Evaluate Your Cost for Missing Specimens

As a lab administrator, your focus is spread across many different issues every day. However, as these studies found, if your lab has become apathetic to lost or missing specimens then your lab is highly likely bleeding cash. Here are seven key questions your lab should ask in evaluating your workflow and missing specimens.

  1. How many specimens go missing or lost on a weekly/monthly basis?
  2. How many hours is spent by staff trying to locate missing or lost specimens?
  3. What is the root cause of missing or lost specimens?
  4. How are your customer relationships effected by missing or lost specimens?
  5. What is the estimated cost of each missing or lost specimen?
  6. Do you consider your lab to be apathetic to missing or lost specimens?
  7. What steps are being taken to eliminate missing or lost specimens?

Answering these questions will give you a clearer picture of how much money missing or lost specimens cost your lab. Having this cost will also help you in determining the value of different courier software systems within the market, such as MCE, to show what a return on investment for a system would be. Based on the study created by Northwell Health and the Hofstra North Shore – LIJ School of Medicine, MCE has created a missing specimen cost analysis that you can download and complete here.

Consider MCE Courier Software

If you don’t already have an automated specimen tracking and medical courier management system in place, and you find that missing specimens are costing your lab money, you should start evaluating courier systems. Medical Courier Elite (MCE) is an easy and impactful system designed specifically for medical courier operations. MCE, combined with barcode tracking technology devices like Zebra’s TC26 mobile computers, make tracking and reconciling specimens from pickup to delivery an easy and efficient process for labs.

MCE”s cloud-based electronic solution uses barcode technology that allows couriers to easily capture specimen data, location, courier information, and pick-up/delivery times. The integrated barcode scanners on Zebra’s mobile computers make it simple to scan the barcoded information on every type of specimen, even if the barcode is damaged or distorted.

Couriers can also capture customer signatures at pickup or delivery. And MCE will automatically reconcile every pickup or delivery and issue verification alerts if anything is missing. MCE also gives lab managers the analytical tools they need to search for records related to specific specimens or prepare reports on lab and courier performance.

The easiest way to determine if a medical courier software solution will help you control the cost of lost or missing patient specimens is to see MCE in action for yourself. Just contact MCE to schedule a web demo at your convenience.








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