How to Handle a Time-Sensitive Backlog of Cytogenetic Analysis Cases
Fluctuations in Caseloads
Managing caseloads is one of the most difficult challenges that plague laboratory managers and directors. It is difficult to staff properly to scale as business needs fluctuate. Hiring too many cytogenetic technologists means the potential for layoffs when business slows, not to mention the additional overhead required for employee benefits. On the other hand, if your lab is not staffed adequately to cover your workload as business increases, the result may be a significant backlog of cases waiting to be tested.
When dealing with these backlogs,most organizations have two options to get back on track: employee overtime and send outs.
Requiring overtime can be a viable solution for sporadic, short-term lab needs. It provides cytogenetic technologists with more work via overtime time hours and associated overtime pay. Your laboratory may even have cytogenetic technologists that like working the extra hours. If the workload and increased need goes on for an extended period; however, requiring overtime becomes less ideal. You’ve got more people working long hours, whichcan result in poor quality work as your lab techs grow tired and less productive. Over time, their attention to detail drops, and with it so does their morale. And with a notable shortage of qualified technologists in the industry and poor morale when more working hours is required, gaining a bad reputation for requiring extended overtime work will only add to an already difficult situation for your lab.
Mandatory overtime also hits hard on the bottom line. Extended stints of overtime can add up quickly as costs negatively impact budget overages. You also have an option to hire additional staff, which can create the risk of layoffs as mentioned above.
Send outs to a high-quality cytogenetic lab is a solid, scalable, solution to fluctuations in caseloads. There are several qualifications to keep in mind as you select a provider for outsourced cytogenetic analysis. First, confirm their quality standards. Ensure they have only CLIA certified technologists with experience. You want outsourcing to solve problems for you, not create new ones. It is also critical to validate their HIPAA compliance. Any partner you choose becomes an extension of your business and as such, must follow all the same compliance requirements that you must follow.
Talk to your potential provider partners to understand their program offerings. Be sure they can accommodate your needs, whether that means long-term or short-term. Ensure they are willing and able to follow your director’s specifications so that you can maintain control over your samples. Understand the details behind their cost structure, and maybe most importantly get a clear definition on their turnaround time (TAT). If clearing up backlog is your main objective, you will want to know exactly what to expect and how quickly you can get back on track.