Pathology & Laboratory Medicine leaders unite to improve services network-wide

In 2016, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine was chosen as the first department at The University of Vermont Health Network to operate network-wide. This integration, begun in March, is expected to reap numerous benefits for patients over the next few years:

  • Ensure uniformly high-quality pathology and laboratory services at all our facilities
  • Contain costs by reducing overlap
  • Support the prevention of illness
  • Make test results easily available to network clinicians, wherever they work

Bringing together the 723 Pathology and Laboratory employees at all network hospitals is no small task.

We are laying a lot of groundwork right now – building relationships and figuring out how to work best together.

Tania Horton, UVM Health Network director of Operations

The first step for Debra Leonard, MD, PhD, network chief of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, was bringing together lab leaders to create a strategic plan. Next, the group set up a leadership structure. Lab leaders meet regularly, and Leonard holds a monthly call of network hospital leaders to stay on the same page.

The group’s goals include integrating technology, defining how testing locations are determined, standardizing testing equipment, setting quality standards, and structuring this new system to handle work referred from a variety of outside clients – a new revenue source.

“We are laying a lot of groundwork right now – building relationships and figuring out how to work best together,” says Tania Horton, UVM Health Network director of Operations for the department. In 2016, a few newly standardized equipment purchases and new master services contracts at sites using the same vendor have saved $66,000.

“The lab at CVPH has already experienced significant cost reductions through group purchasing and has benefited from shared resources,” agrees Ron Brown, laboratory director at The University of Vermont Health Network – Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital.

The secret to success lies in engagement. “The conversations we have before diving into each new initiative allow us to be honest and transparent, and to come up with priorities that everyone feels they own,” Horton says.

Being a part of this team “allows me to represent Alice Hyde Medical Center and play an active role,” says Todd Harrington, CT, Laboratory administrative director at UVM Health Network – Alice Hyde in Malone, NY.

“Communicating as we work together is essential to the success of a department’s integration, so we spend a great deal of time doing that,” said Leonard, professor and chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Larner College of Medicine.

This coming year promises to build on last year’s positive momentum. Leaders will focus on developing a testing location model – where patients can best be served – moving to a single anatomic pathology computer system and creating a three- to five-year business plan.