Not Another STAT, Please!
Recently, CRI had a webinar, titled “Effective Laboratory
Utilization: New Health Care Models,” and somehow the word utilization made me think of STATs. It made me remember the years
when I was right out of lab school and was often stressed out every time a STAT
was dropped off in the lab. For this
week, let’s talk about the lab’s responsibility in ensuring the correct
utilization of STATs, as well as strategies to help your lab meet the
turnaround time requested.
When I was a brand new lab tech, I remember receiving an
increasing number of STATs requested 15-20 minutes prior to shutting down for
the day. It was quite obvious what the emergency was -- this was not only poor
test priority utilization, because some of those tests could very well have
been ordered as routine and ran the next day, but it added to the level of
stress already present. In retrospect, this situation could have been better
1) Assessing if the right priority was selected, setting limits if it wasn’t,
2) Having a strategy to help the lab meet the request.
If the test priority is not a true STAT and can be ordered
as routine, or ASAP, then it is the lab’s responsibility to ask questions and
make sure the right priority for the test has been ordered. If the priority is
not the correct one, the lab has the right to change the priority to manage the
For true STAT requests, the recommendation is to have a
process to incorporate them into the workload. Labs use different ways to track
STAT specimens from pre-analytic to post-analytic phase. Some of the methods
used are colored stickers, which make it easier to locate/track specimens; this
can also be done by having a designated STAT person, or a stop watch or other
time tracking device setup when the specimen is first received. If the lab is a
sophisticated one, it may even have a screen with the different priorities
highlighted and how much time is left, very much like a flight screen at an
Delivering the right result is as important as delivering
the right result at the right time! In accomplishing this, labs have
opportunities to assess if the correct priority was indeed selected to help
manage the workload. It is also essential for labs to have a strategy in place
to incorporate and track STATs from the pre-analytic to post-analytic phase to
ensure test results are reported out on time.
What are some of the ways STATs are handled in your
laboratory? Please share!