As clinical laboratories face a shortage of workers and rapidly changing diagnostic technology, many are considering renovating or redesigning their space to improve workflow, reduce turnaround time, and increase efficiency, writes Kimberly Scott in the September issue of CLN.

In some cases, labs have simply outgrown their existing footprints or have layouts that no longer work for modern operations, Scott’s article observes.

Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in Englewood, New Jersey, found itself in such a position in 2011. “The lab we had was built in the 1970s,” explained Janet Rosenberg, MT (ASCP), MBA, director of administrative laboratory services. “The layout did not lend itself to the ideal workflow. Our central receiving area was not adjacent to the core lab sections, which meant specimens would come in and would have to be walked down a corridor. Everything was spread out.”

As Scott’s article describes in detail, the hospital hired an architect who also happened to be a medical technologist to draw up blueprints for the new lab. Karen Mortland, RA, MT (ASCP), president of Chicora, Pennsylvania-based Mortland Planning & Design, met with supervisors of each lab section to determine current and future needs. The goal, says Rosenberg, was to improve function, enhance the employee experience, increase efficiency, and be adaptable to future growth.

Renovation of the 24,800-square-foot lab cost about $5.2 million, took 14 months, and progressed in five phases. Although the lab did not gain overall square footage, it added about 2,000 feet of usable space through the redesign.

Since the renovation was completed in 2013, the Englewood lab has been able to process more specimens in the same amount of space, leading it to start a lab outreach program in 2014. “We increased our volume by about 40 percent last year and decreased turnaround time,” said Rosenberg, noting that there is still capacity for even more testing.

Mortland recommended that lab directors contemplating a renovation consider the following:

  • Workload. What is your existing capacity, and what is your target capacity? For how many years do you anticipate the redesigned lab will be able to meet your needs before needing another renovation?
  • Workflow. How can you change your existing procedures to be more efficient? Can you improve the functionality of the lab? What are some ways to reduce the number of steps lab technicians need to take as they perform testing?
  • Ergonomics. How can you make working in the lab a more pleasant experience for staff? Do you need a new HVAC system, more stalls in the women’s restroom, adjustable benches, better lighting?

Pick up the September issue of CLN and learn more about the trends and challenges of modern lab design and renovation.