June 2010

Transition to PAML for Reference Lab Testing Begins

CHI has begun a 24-month plan to transition all MBOs to using Pathology Associates Medical Laboratory (PAML), Spokane, WA, for reference laboratory work. CHI became part owner of the full-service medical reference lab in October 2009. "PAML has an excellent reputation for providing high-quality esoteric testing," said Paul Edgett, senior vice president of national business lines for CHI. "As an equity owner, CHI shares in the governance of PAML and the profits generated." PAML conducts more than eight million tests annually.

Ben Palatchi, director of imaging and laboratory programs, and Patrick Black, project manager, enterprise program management office, are working together on facility conversion plans. "PAML has committed to lowering our overall reference lab send-out costs while maintaining or improving service levels," said Palatchi. "There are more benefits to be realized as we grow our volume commitment to PAML."

In late April, St. Vincent Health System, Little Rock, AR, became the first MBO to transition its reference lab work to PAML under the new agreement. Franciscan Health System, Tacoma, WA, and Mercy Medical Center, Roseburg, OR, already used PAML. It is the seventh-largest reference laboratory in the U.S. and is equipped to perform tests that hospital-based labs may not perform due to lack of volume, technology or trained personnel.

"The transition went better than expected," said Susan Williams, manager of outreach operations for St. Vincent. "Our lab techs were very involved in the process. During the test phase, they checked that all labels printed correctly and they verified results. That was helpful to make sure everything was working smoothly. We took three hospitals live with PAML in one day, and PAML provided a trainer for each hospital."

A detailed transition plan for all MBOs that don't already use PAML as their primary reference lab has been set, with another MBO going live approximately every two weeks. "This type of transition is very detailed and complex, and each MBO's schedule allows the time needed to conduct a needs assessment, adjust the test directory, establish an interface with PAML and test the process before going live," said Palatchi.

PAML generally performs and provides results for high-volume tests within 24 to 48 hours. For more information, contact Ben Palatchi, benpalatchi@catholichealth.net.