Three Things to Do Right Now to Tame Your Lab Results Data Entry Backlog

When you get to the office in the morning, is there a backlog of lab results waiting to be entered in patients’ electronic medical records for you and your team?  If so, then read on…

Were you thinking of the word dread?  Or how about, “I hate it when…

  • Physicians get frustrated because they can’t find results for a test they ordered two weeks ago
  • The backlog grows to overwhelming proportions
  • I lie awake at night thinking about errors making their way into the EMR
  • My physicians don’t have the information needed to make decisions
  • Cost of care goes up when duplicate lab tests are ordered
  • Care quality goes down when care is delayed while patients wait for their test results
  • I have to fight with people to get them to do data entry

It may not make you feel better but you are not alone.  Here are three things that you can easily do to solve the lab results data entry challenge.

Stop thinking like a healthcare professional

There are ways to reduce your data-entry-backlog-induced-anxiety and it takes less effort than you think.  The first thing you need to do is to stop thinking about the problem like a healthcare professional and start thinking about it like a data workflow expert.

If you think you have to spread the workload amongst the whole team you are thinking like a healthcare professional.  It’s more productive to start thinking about the goal to achieve fast and accurate data entry.  It’s critical to have people on the data entry team that can help you attain your goals.  Data entry isn’t for everyone, so put aside notions of fairness and assign data entry tasks to people that will help you attain your goals.  Some people actually enjoy predictable routines and these are the people that will help you to achieve your data entry goals.  The others, who thrive on change, will resist data entry work and they work more slowly and make more mistakes.

Give your team a typing test

People have different aptitudes and the law of averages suggests that more than half of your team members are less-than-stellar data entry people.  How do you find the good ones?  It’s simple.  Give them a typing test.  If you don’t have one or have an idea how to create a typing test, simply “google” typing test.  Once you’ve found a test you like, create your own standard for speed and accuracy and then go find people that can meet or exceed that standard.

Measure what you manage

What are you doing about errors?  Hmmmm.  Don’t you hate that question?  But what will you say if your boss asks you that question this afternoon?   Hmmmmm is not a good answer.

Here’s how you find a better answer.  Measure.  There is little that can be done about errors until you know the kinds of errors that are being made, how often and by whom.  Let me quickly and very clearly say that the whom issue isn’t meant to turn you into a witch hunter.  The moment your team perceives you are out to get them is the moment you’ve made your job extremely difficult.  If the team thinks your focus is more on catching them and not on catching the error, they will stop helping you.  Focus your attention on why errors are bad and what workflow changes will fix the cause of the errors.  If the team makes these changes they will be “good”, not “bad”.  Humans make errors.  Don’t set them up to fail.  Your job is to set them up to succeed, and they will succeed.

Set team goals for maintaining your standards.  If you want your document turnaround to be 24 hours or less you’ll need to measure at the end of every day to see where you are.  An added benefit to measuring is that you may find anomalies in your workflow.  Some days may naturally be busy days and you’ll need more hours applied to the workflow to maintain your 24 hour turnaround.

Something else will probably happen if you engage your team and get their buy in.  They will come to you with their observations of the workflow.  They might tell you that they are seeing a lot of duplicate documents or that problem documents often come from a particular source.  If this happens, you’ll know you are on the right track.

Want a more accurate and faster way to enter these data into the EMR?  Check out our solution.


About the Author: David Rasmussen

With 20 years’ experience leading software companies, David is driven by the challenge to consistently find groundbreaking ways to solve customer problems. He finds it rewarding to hit the customer’s target, but that is only a part of the reward/challenge. Creating and nurturing a great team, building a solid infrastructure, raising and managing capital, avoiding pitfalls, and emerging with a strong value proposition is what the bigger picture is all about for him.