Date: 3/24/2005

The laboratory of the future is here with $6 million upgrade

A $6 million total laboratory enhancement to Community Healthcare System is bringing with it faster lab results for patients, increased accuracy, safer working conditions and more freedom for laboratory professionals to focus on clinical decision making and customer service.

This investment puts for the first time in a community hospital setting the same level of technology typically found only at university-based and large reference laboratories. This advanced technology is being placed at all three hospitals of the Community Healthcare System: Community Hospital in Munster, St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago and St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart and as such will be a first in Northwest Indiana and among the first in the country.

“It is very unusual for a community hospital to implement this type of technology. For us, it’s just another example of our commitment to give our physicians and patients access to the best medical practices in the country,” says John Gorski, senior vice president of hospital operations for Community Healthcare System. “We recognize that even something as behind the scenes such as our laboratory services can make a significant impact on the experience of our patients and the quality of their care.”

Lab automation will advance an ongoing priority of the laboratory -- the reduction of defects. With the addition of the automated equipment and these focused quality initiatives, our goal is to reduce that defect rate to one in a million events, said Elizabeth Yee, Division Director of Ancillary Services, who has worked to integrate the hospital’s three labs since the creation of the Community Healthcare System in 2001.

Another example of the lab’s commitment to quality is its most recent survey and accreditation by the College of American Pathologists. During this survey of all three hospital laboratories, 0 deficiencies were found, which represents an incredible accomplishment, Yee said.

The new automated system will work such wonders as eliminating the time spent batching blood samples by integrating operations into one easy-to-operate system. This will allow the lab to process specimens continuously rather than waiting for an entire batch to accumulate. “Physicians can expect results faster so that patients can receive more timely care,” said Ethel Urbi, System laboratory operations director for Community Healthcare System.

For the professional lab staff, automation will enable them to turn their attention to consulting with physicians and completing more complex tests once sent to outside labs at a higher cost and with a longer turn-around time for the physician and the patient.

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