Planning a Laboratory for the Future

Blogger: Tom Stiles, Clinical Lab/Equipment Planner | Omaha, NE, USA
November 22, 2016

When a healthcare organization decides it’s time to renovate or build a new clinical laboratory, how much thought is put into planning for the future? Some of the difficulty with forecasting what the future needs will be for a laboratory is the state of chaos the clinical laboratory industry is in right now. What will a clinical laboratory look like ten years from now? What about in twenty years? How do you know you have the “right” size laboratory, and is there even such a thing? These are difficult questions that do not have one easy answer. 

So who cares about the laboratory and why is it so important? Currently, around 70% of all medical decisions are based on clinical laboratory testing. With personalized medicine presenting opportunities for the laboratory industry, as well as advances in pathology and molecular testing, this percentage could soon grow even greater. In fact, many consider a revolution in the clinical laboratory industry to be imminent. According to a study published in GlobeNewswire, the "global clinical laboratory services market [is] estimated to reach $342.3 billion by 2024 from $196.9 billion in 2015." 

Make sure you read the word 'global' in that statement. Can you imagine not planning for something this big and important?

With all of these factors in mind, we should think twice about simply stuffing the laboratory in the basement with no windows. Hospitals may instead want to increase the integration and connectivity of the laboratory to the healthcare facility to assist their patients, staff, and showcase their facility's capacity. As the pool of those with clinical laboratory expertise shrinks, attracting and retaining talent will be a high priority for organizations. 

We had this in mind the whole time I was involved in planning a laboratory in Provo, Utah. The lab has great access and adjacency to the rest of the medical center, as well as phenomenal flow within. The open concept planning approach means that any future equipment and technology can be easily introduced and accommodated. Lab equipment has an average lifetime of three to five years, so this is critical consideration. And there were gorgeous views to the mountains, providing staff with natural light and a space that you would want to work in. 

Our efforts in Provo resulted in an outstanding layout and design, with versatile workspaces for the future. Natural lighting, exterior views, and transparency in flexible spaces make for a pleasant working space, as well as convenient access for lab staff and management. Attention to detail and efficiency considerations in space will allow staff to use their lab to its greatest potential - throughout its lifetime.

The impact of not planning for the future and simply 'providing the space' can be more than just financial. Indeed, I was recently at a conference where a laboratory system CEO stated that "this is the most disruption I have ever seen in the clinical laboratory industry in my thirty years of being involved." This statement still resonates with me. After all, 'if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.' 

So let's plan for the future.