Medical laboratories differ from research or academic laboratories in that they handle biological samples and confidential patient information. They are staffed by professionals of different backgrounds and expertise in the clinical lab sciences. A person with a business background is usually the one to manage the financial and human resources of a lab. Starting a lab as a business requires acquiring the right equipment and people.
Items you will need
- Physical location
- Laboratory analyzers
- Office supplies
- Medical technologists
- Medical laboratory technicians
- Office/clerical staff
- Sample collection supplies
Location and Equipment
Find a location that will house all of the equipment that will go into the lab. Remember that the lab also must have areas for a front office, sample processing and a place for employees to store their personal belongings. The lab also will need plenty of storage for equipment reagents and parts, as well as for sample collection supplies.
Ensure your location has a plentiful water supply and disposal access to feed into the analyzers and to get rid of waste. Electric plugs also must be plentiful for all the laboratory analyzers to be plugged in. Likewise, an electric generator for electrical backup must be available.
Install the laboratory analyzers in a configuration that will allow the greatest amount of mobility of personnel from one analyzer to the next. Remember that the analyzers produce a lot of heat, so the rooms where they are located must be well ventilated.
Accreditation and Personnel
Check with your state's department of health for any licensing required to operate the laboratory. Certain cities and local governments also might requiring licensing and monitoring of the lab. In addition to licensing, federal statues require that laboratories be accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Organizations (or an equivalent accreditation agency). Without accreditation, the laboratory cannot charge certain public and private insurance programs for services.
Hire all the necessary personnel for the operations of the laboratory. Make sure that they all meet the qualifications set forth by your state, including education and licensing. Medical technologists are qualified to supervise departments within the lab. Medical laboratory technicians are qualified to operate the analyzers and do testing.
Hire the appropriate people for the positions of leadership. A pathologist, who is a physician with specialized training in laboratory medicine, will oversee the scientific aspects of the lab. A lab manager, who will have business management training, will oversee the budgeting and personnel aspects of the lab. Support staff, such as administrative assistants and sample processing staff, also are key.
Advertise your services to the local physician offices, hospitals and clinics. Explain to them what types of testing you will perform at the laboratory, the cost and why your laboratory is better than others.
It is not easy to make a profit from a laboratory because the operation of it is expensive and the reimbursement, especially from Medicare and Medicaid, is less than enough to cover the overhead. Nevertheless, there is a continuing need for specialty laboratory training. Advances in science and technology, along with an aging population and new diseases, make for a promising environment in which to operate a lab.
Have a solid financial plan in place. This is an expensive business to start and operate, and you will need financing to carry you through as you get started.
Be mindful of all the rules and regulations of operating a laboratory. Any violation, no matter how small, will be more than enough to have local, state, or federal authorities shut down the lab. A good quality control and quality assurance plan goes a long way in the medical lab.
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