People who live in Northern BC know that access to health care services can be challenging. The pandemic only exacerbated that for outpatient laboratory services, an already fragile and frustrating service that people in the North had long voiced concerns over.
Northern Health’s lab team decided to change that for the better. They launched the Lab Outpatient Improvement Project (LOIP) to address the long wait times to access outpatient lab services in Northern BC and, in so doing, over a two-year timespan completely transformed and modernized lab services across 26 sites.
The problem that needed to be addressed for Northerners was that a patient’s experience in Smithers differed significantly from a patient’s experience in Prince George. There were long wait-times for an outpatient lab appointment, a lack of choice for accessing the service (most labs were 100% scheduled), and variability across the region.
Improving access was achieved by offering a blended service model of scheduled and unscheduled lab appointments, whereby patients could self-schedule either online using the HealthElife portal or by phone, the ability to drop-in while avoiding long line-ups using NH Check In for queueing, and the flexibility to bring in a requisition or have it sent straight to the lab.
In addition, lab staff and providers could focus on appropriate tasks thanks to the digitization of requisitions, modern processes and tools, expansion of clerical functions and support, standardization of the lab schedule, and improved patient flow management for drop-ins.
In the words of one of NH’s valued patient partners: “What we want is a more responsive system that gives patients control over when, where, and how we access services, while easing the burden on labs. Give us the opportunity to have greater control over access and it will improve our care and deliver efficiencies for lab staff.”
The Lab Outpatient Improvement Program successfully met that challenge!