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News Room: InTouch: St. Elizabeth launches a whole new breed of hospital lab

Hospital goes live with region’s first automated system

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The St. Elizabeth Healthcare Lab is on the cusp of what may be the biggest change in its history. Thanks to a newly formed agreement with Solstas Lab Partners—as well as the system’s $4.5 million investment into this region’s first and only lab automation system and other resources – hospital administrators say the St. Elizabeth Lab can now offer faster results and greater testing capabilities, with the promise of more draw sites in the not-too-distant future.

“From the reference lab side of things, we’re gaining some significant costs savings through this partnership with Solstas,” said St. Elizabeth Healthcare Assistant Vice President of Patient Care Services, Jason Wessel.

“Then we signed a letter of intent to partner with them to develop the St. Elizabeth Lab’s outreach program. … And that outreach is really taking our services out to doctors’ offices which don’t have labs, so we will really be a service provider for all physicians in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Ultimately, we want to be a major player in the region for comprehensive lab services.”

Granted, that’s a tall order. But, St. Elizabeth has invested the money, time and expertise into making that goal a reality. For instance, St. Elizabeth has invested $3 million in the Greater Cincinnati region’s first laboratory automation system. The new technology, which the lab began using earlier this month, is now pushing a greater number of specimens through testing in a much shorter period of time with greater accuracy overall.

Additionally, the Greensboro, North Carolina-based Solstas offers greater partnership value to improve health outcomes and lower overall lab costs. Finally—and perhaps most significantly for physicians— Solstas will facilitate the physical expansion of St. Elizabeth outreach lab services to more sites over a larger geographical area.

“We’ve entered into an outreach agreement that is entirely focused on service and growth,” Wessel said. “So doctors can contract with us for lab services, much as we do with St. Elizabeth Physicians now. …

“To do that we are beefing up our offerings to provide the testing and services they want with the quality and turnaround time they need in a location that is convenient to their patients … which could be in doctors’ offices, stand-alone centers, or wherever is most convenient.”

Three million lab tests annually and growing
Annually, St. Elizabeth’s lab handles about 3 million individual lab tests, a number that is expected to grow substantially with the new Solstas partnership. The vast majority of lab tests will now be processed through the automated system that began handling specimens this January at St. Elizabeth Edgewood.

More complex and unusual tests will be sent to Solstas’s 180,000 square-foot state-of-the-art, College of American Pathologists-certified lab in Greensboro. But, even these off-site tests will take place in record time since Solstas does not rely on commercial airlines.

“In the past we have been very dependent on the airline industry,” said Wessel. “But since Solstas has its own aircraft, they control the flights and we don’t lose control to the airlines.”

Solstas Chief Operating Officer, Gary Huff adds, “St. Elizabeth will no longer require multiple labs for various patient tests. Solstas is a single lab solution focused on providing an exceptional lab experience.

“This new partnership will introduce quality, speed, efficiency and accuracy into the lab environment and we’re happy to deliver this value to the communities in which St. Elizabeth operates.”

If it all sounds like a sea change is in the works for St. Elizabeth’s lab, that’s not a mistake. Wessel said culture change is the whole idea behind the new Solstas partnership. In fact, he says in five years the St. Elizabeth Lab will be a much different, larger and more recognizable name across the entire region.

“We want to become the regional experts in lab services. We are fully committed to taking our lab to the next level,” he said. “That’s the level our patients and physicians have been asking for and deserve. We’re going to exceed their expectations in lab services.”

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