Why is Managing Turnaround Time (TAT) Important in a Lab?

Godavari Doke

Laboratory facilities today are more focused on offering services that are reliable and easily available to patients. Hence, keeping time and quality on priority, these centres are working towards reaching this goal, writes Godavari Doke, Content Writer at CrelioHealth.

TAT is a metric used to monitor the efficiency and productivity of your laboratory. Hence, as it is an important aspect of lab management, we must know its significance and attributes that contribute to making our services better for end-users. Secondly, using TAT to measure different laboratory aspects as well as optimizing it holds huge benefits on both operational and financial fronts.

Benefits of TAT control:

• Optimized turnaround time on an operational level acts as a credit to your daily revenue; improving your monthly revenue cycle.

• With faster and reliable report delivery time, you have more credibility from patients, referrals, and business partners as well

• In addition to that, improved service delivery time leads to an increase in the volume of samples processed per day. You can see double monthly throughput with a shortened timeline on delivery

• Meanwhile, shorter reporting time enables doctors to take quick action on reports much faster. This improves patient service time. As a result, such optimization on the timeline improves doctors’ and patients’ experience with the diagnostic centre. Such tangible and intangible advantages offer your laboratory centre the opportunity to scale.

Also read: Lab Accreditation Gains Importance During Pandemic

What is TAT?

Turnaround time (TAT) is the total amount of time required to complete a cycle of the process. In laboratory management, this cycle encloses the time from ordering a test to delivering reports to end customers. However, there are many other processes involved in this loop namely—order, collect, identify, transfer, segregate, test, report, assess and deliver. The total turnaround time of a test is a factor entirely dependent on all these processes.

Types of TAT:

• Pre-analytical: Processes from test request to sample transfer

• Analytical: Processes from the segregation of samples to report generation

• Post-analytical: Processes from doctor’s assessment to report delivery

How to Measure TAT for your Tests?

Every process for a given test varies on its type. For example, For test A & B, if sample A is to be collected and processed directly, whereas Sample B must be centrifuged, the time required for the test performed on sample A varies from the test to be performed on Sample B. This indicates that turnaround time varies for each test.

On the other hand, pathology tests may be categorized into two types—routine and special. Therefore, considering the time required for a particular test based on its type and priority, we must create a list of tests performed for a lab. Once we have a list, we can set an expected TAT on each one of them based on their priority and type.

Soon after a test is ordered you can compare the turnaround time with values in your test list. This helps you measure it for each testing procedure. A filter can be set to the information system that notifies you when the time is exceeded.

Why do we need to Measure TAT? Why is it Important?

Monitoring the variabilities in TAT helps us get insights on the causes of delay. This can be useful in making improvements in different areas of our end-processes and also resolve dependent problems that hamper lab efficiency and staff productivity. Thus, reviewing TAT can help reduce delivery time, customer satisfaction & reduce costs in a significant manner.

How can you shorten your Lab’s TAT?

There are certain parts of laboratory management that should be updated as per current trends; that not only reduces the overall turnaround time but also ensures convenient diagnostic services for end-customers. Some of them are as follows –

• Automation of redundant processes (5–10% saving)

• Barcoding of samples which helps further automated testing

• Machine Interfacing to automate the entry of tests (>20% saving)

• Electronic report delivery (5–10% saving)

• Improved completion time improves your lab’s throughput; giving all referrals, partners and patients the liberty to be easily reliable to your diagnostic centre.


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