All posts by syuan

Rising ahead of the sun to deliver same-day results for America’s seniors

Routine lab services aren’t typically top of mind when thinking about nursing homes or the care they provide. Yet, hours before dawn, phlebotomists from American Health Associates (AHA) make the trip to nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the country to collect specimens from patients who depend on routine diagnostic tests to monitor their health. When it comes to vulnerable populations like nursing or long-term care residents, every minute counts. That’s why AHA prides its phlebotomists and lab technicians as “minutemen.”

“We do try to train our phlebotomists to be the kind of people you want to see by your bedside with a needle at 4 o’clock in the morning,” notes Amelia Waters, Vice President of Strategy and Operations at AHA. “[Phlebotomists] are really very much unsung heroes.”

The ability to listen to and understand patients is something that is innate to the phlebotomists at AHA, whom Amelia describe as the “face of the company.” In addition to the technical skills required to serve this population, Amelia highlights the social skills that AHA phlebotomists leverage to build trust with patients, many of whom are elderly and have pre-existing conditions. “On the elderly, it can be tricky trying to draw blood because they’re older or the veins are smaller, thinner, collapsed,” Amelia explains. “You need to be great with people in order to do this well.”

AHA’s commitment to patient care extends further than the face-to-face interactions during regular specimen collection. Understanding that time and quality is critical for patients, Amelia introduced a new online check-in system for phlebotomists to help streamline the clinical laboratory process and improve the tracking and accuracy of the records of the specimen’s life, such as the time the specimen was dropped off, the facility it came from and the temperature at which it arrived.

The main goal for Amelia’s team is to process and investigate samples in a timely and accurate manner as the results are very time-sensitive. “Things can progress very quickly, so depending on the results, if we draw it in the morning and we turn the results in by the afternoon, the doctor is able to make a decision,” Amelia points out. These needs were especially elevated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, when long-term care facilities were some of the nation’s hot spots for the spread of the disease.

“There’s tons of respiratory viruses out there, all of which are different from COVID, but many of them have very similar sort of symptoms, so being able to tell the difference quickly is important,” says Amelia.

Watch the full interview with Amelia to learn more about the work that happens behind-the-scenes at American Health Associates.

Piecing Together the Puzzle: Lab Professionals Play Critical Role in Delivering Patient-Centered Care

Caring for patients is the family business for Stephanie Peterson, an operational technical specialist for Mayo Clinic Laboratories’ Hepatitis/HIV Molecular Lab. Stephanie’s father was a personal trainer and her mother served on the frontlines as a nurse. From an early age, Stephanie developed a passion for health that only grew when she joined her mother for Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day and saw patient care firsthand.

“Seeing all the different tools that they [health care workers] would use — that made me really curious about the hospital, and then later on, the lab,” recalls Stephanie.

In Mayo’s Hepatitis/HIV Molecular Lab, Stephanie focuses on assessing transplant assays, or helping patients receive the organ transplants they need in a safe and timely manner. “It’s oftentimes people who have been waiting on a list for weeks, months on end, and they have a phone call that they receive,” says Stephanie. “And they have X amount of hours to be able to get that organ transplanted, to be present where it is and get that testing done to make sure that before this organ ever touches that body, all the necessary tests are taken and made to make it to them.”

Throughout a given day, Stephanie helps her team by ensuring that laboratory workflows run smoothly. She provides insights from her previous laboratory experiences and works to identify new, innovative ways to help her fellow technicians at Mayo perform their roles with greater ease. That can include finding ergonomic techniques for lab technicians to physically do their work, or making sure they have the resources they need to get the job done.

Stephanie and her team’s commitment to the job translates to an even greater commitment to patients. “No matter if you’re just test-tube number one or test-tube number 201, we’re going to treat you with the utmost care, making sure that we’re checking all items,” she explains.

Communication is key to bringing it all together to best serve patients, says Stephanie, who emphasized the focus on teamwork in everything the lab does. “Coming to Mayo, I feel I know that each time I’m doing my job, I’m not only helping myself, I’m helping those patients,” she shares.

Watch the video below to learn more about the critical contributions that lab professionals like Stephanie provide each and every day.

In this fast-paced lab, innovation and improvement is a constant

This Laboratory Professionals Week, we honor the innovators, collaborators and colleagues who have gone above and beyond behind the scenes to meet patient need. Today, ACLA is featuring Kortney Martin from Aegis Sciences Corporation, who demonstrated tremendous commitment and dedication implementing a new technological platform that streamlined workflow processes.

Across the country, laboratory professionals are constantly innovating to overcome new challenges and advance the industry’s commitment to patients. Kortney Martin, who serves as the Senior Analytical Chemist at Aegis Sciences Corporation, is one of the many lab professionals leading the way to streamline and implement new technologies designed to improve systems and processes in the laboratory setting.

In a fast-paced environment like the high-volume laboratory at Aegis, staying at the forefront of technology while maintaining a keen-focus on quality and turnaround time is critical to the work they do every day. For Kortney, these priorities are always top of mind—she’s laser-focused on identifying and implementing efficient ways to streamline workflows and improve the lab’s processes.

“Her constant focus on quality and her ability to think critically is what makes Kortney one of the best in the industry,” says Sarah Edwards, Aegis’ Laboratory Operations Manager.

When the Aegis Research and Development (R&D) team first proposed the introduction of the Agilent Ultivo Quadrupole LC-MS/MS instrument as the right platform to enable the company to combine a large number of behavioral health assays, senior leadership immediately recognized Kortney as the right leader to get it done.

Kortney accepted the challenge and immediately began the planning process to establish a successful implementation. She attended countless meetings, learned the ins and outs of the new software, suggested improvements and even created a training video to help ensure a seamless integration of the platform and the best outcome for her laboratory team.

“Kortney has established an unmatched reputation for excellence and integrity in everything she does, and this new technology was received by the laboratory team with high praise and enthusiasm, enabling the team to continue to process highly accurate and reliable tests,” adds Sarah.

Lab professionals like Kortney who go above and beyond are the foundation of the clinical laboratory industry as they work to ensure that patients continue to receive highly accurate and reliable test results that provide the right answers at the right time.

Ambry Genetics lab adapts to bring crucial COVID-19 tests to patients

This Laboratory Professionals Week, we honor the innovators, collaborators and colleagues who have gone above and beyond behind the scenes to meet patient need. Today, ACLA is featuring Nancy Kramer, Nicholas Johnson and Richard Srey from Ambry Genetics’ lab team who expanded their capacity to bring COVID-19 tests to patients nationwide while remaining committed to their core genetic testing.

Nancy Kramer, Nicholas Johnson and Richard Srey are just a few of the important lab professionals at Ambry Genetics who have dedicated themselves to serving a critical community need. To meet patient needs, the team frequently exceeded their typical 3,000 specimens per day threshold for both COVID-19 and their core genetic testing in Ambry’s state-of-the-art SuperLab, which enabled them to analyze and process samples more quickly and reduce turnaround times (TAT). At the height of the COVID-19 surge in January 2021, the team processed more than 4,000 specimens a day on several occasions. At the same time, they managed to scale genetic testing onto the latest Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) instrument, allowing Ambry to more than double their oncology volume capacity per sequencing run.

Finding an Urgent Solution

Nancy Kramer, Director, Accessioning Operations, and Nicholas Johnson, Business Operations Analyst, needed creative solutions that would allow them to dedicate just a handful of folks to enter thousands of COVID-19 test orders weekly.

With COVID, we had to completely rethink our internal processes in order to meet the demands of volume and TAT,” said Nancy. “We needed to quickly absorb a lot of information into the system. Our team stepped up to the challenge, including IT, to leverage a solution. Now, one person can create 500-600 orders in a matter of a few hours.”

Despite the surge in demand, the team remained diligent knowing their work was essential to patients and their health.

“We were keeping people safe, keeping people working. We could see the massive need for testing and trusted our team to get them in and get it right! We would not have survived without them,” explained Nancy.

To keep pace with volume, the team created a new approach to facilitate bulk orders. Using their new bulk order tool and manifest system, the lab was able to process the orders in a fraction of the time. The 200 orders that would previously take one person a full day to create, can now be done in just 30 minutes.  

“Our testing volume ballooned and we quickly found that we had a lot of new issues to deal with,” said Nicholas. “It was a team effort. With support from our IT Helpdesk and Development teams, we were able to juggle the routine core genetic casework while also mastering new platforms, tools, workflows, and often people. It felt good to be a part of a solution during such a rapidly evolving time, and while the work could be really exhausting, the team remained unwaveringly determined.”

Working as One: A Massive Team Effort

Before Richard Srey, Manager of the Clinical Laboratory, stepped up to manage the COVID lab team, he never imagined he would be part of an undertaking like this one.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” said Richard. “This task took enormous effort from all groups across the company: Sanger, NGS, Array, Multiplex Ligation-Dependent Probe Amplification, Extraction & Distribution, RNA, Quality Control, etc. I can’t point to one single person who did more work than the other. The team we assembled illustrates how our Clinical Lab as a whole made sacrifices to shoulder this additional assay.”

Ambry’s motto encompasses the shared commitment of its employees to work together across all departments to improve patients’ lives – One Ambry. According to Richard, “This was definitely a One Ambry effort.”

Since ACLA member laboratories first validated and launched the initial novel tests for SARS-CoV-2 virus, lab professionals like Nancy, Nicholas and Richard have been hard at work to collectively perform more than 118 million PCR tests for COVID-19 as of April 19, all while adapting platforms and workflows, navigating supply constraints and working creatively and collaboratively to meet patients’ evolving health needs. While new variants emerge and more Americans get vaccinated, the work of Nancy, Nicholas and Richard remain essential to ensure robust access to accurate and reliable COVID-19 testing.