There is an area of your operation hiding in plain sight that is contributing to surgical cancellations, loss of irreplaceable specimens, reduced nurse satisfaction, and diminished operational effectiveness. While not typically on the radar for healthcare executives, recent surveys point to a source of angst for nursing and laboratory teams that significantly impacts patient care and drives sizable financial loss: medical couriers.
According to a survey of 353 nurses conducted by American Nurse Journal, 71% of nurses said a medical courier delay or error impacts their ability to provide patient care at least once a month. The American Nurse survey further found:
- 56% of nurses had to reschedule a patient procedure in the past year because of medical courier delays or errors
- 65% of nurses had to collect another specimen/sample for testing because of medical courier delays or errors
- Nearly one-fifth (19%) of nurses said that errors or delays impacted their ability to provide patient care five or more times per month
Courier problems and delays also considerably impact lab professionals. “Each day, medical couriers play a critical role in healthcare delivery,” said Sarah Charai, system director, Allina Health Supply Chain Operations. “For example, a patient's diagnosis relies on a specimen safely getting to the right place in a timely manner.”
A recent survey produced by CAP Today, the publication of the College of American Pathologists, found that every one of the 269 lab survey respondents noted that medical couriers impacted their work on a weekly basis. Additionally:
- 61% of lab supervisors, managers and directors reported their labs had irreplaceable specimen loss due to a courier error in the past year, while 18% said it happened five or more times in the past year
- 28% said they had to collect another specimen or sample due to a courier error more than five times in the past year
- 86% of lab professionals said medical courier delays or errors affect their ability to provide timely and accurate results for patients at least once a month.
These numbers are too high to ignore, especially in today’s healthcare environment of labor shortages, nurse burnout and compressed, or negative, operating margins.
Viewing medical couriers through a different lens
Historically, the medical courier space has been viewed as a commodity. As with other commodities, healthcare organizations that hold this view simplify value to the unit cost, or “price at the pump”, for movements from point A to point B.
Visionary healthcare leaders come to this space with a completely different perspective, viewing same-day logistics through a holistic lens. "While it is easy to simply look at the pure cost—or dollars spent—it is imperative to look beyond that and consider the value of the spend related to your [company's] success,” said Sam Terese, CEO and president of Alverno Laboratories.
This makes intuitive sense when you compare the cost of medical couriers – a small fraction of a percent of total costs – with its reach. Virtually everything a health system does depends on effective logistics. The survey results validate the vital role of effective medical courier logistics in the success of healthcare organizations and make clear that medical courier is not a cost center, but rather a value center that punches well above its weight.
Effective medical courier logistics make all the difference
Not surprisingly given its importance, examples of the contrast between ineffective and effective medical couriers abound. Surgical delays and cancellations result in unrecoverable revenue loss, while instrument trays and equipment arriving on time enable surgeries to move forward as planned. Specimen loss and delays affect patients and interrupt workflows, while predictable, high-quality specimen delivery provides for timely results and efficient deployment of human and physical capital. Unreliable supply chains force clinicians to use time searching for needed supplies and remediating issues, while supplies arriving at the right place at the right time allows those clinicians to spend their precious time executing at the top of their license.
What is the ultimate takeaway? When looking for ways to meet the demands of today’s healthcare challenges, consider your medical courier/same-day logistics operation. By partnering with a logistics provider that has built its offering to match the importance of the service, you can meaningfully improve community health, elevate the patient experience, and boost clinician satisfaction, all while strengthening your bottom line.
About the Author
Jake Crampton is the CEO of MedSpeed, the market-leading provider of same-day logistics services to the healthcare industry.