Productivity of Veterans Health Administration laboratories: a College of American Pathologists Laboratory Management Index Program (LMIP) study.
CONTEXT: The Veterans Health Administration (VA) operates the largest integrated laboratory network in the United States. OBJECTIVE: To assess whether the unique characteristics of VA laboratories impact efficiency of operations, we compared the productivity of VA and non-VA facilities. DESIGN: Financial and activity data were prospectively collected from 124 VA and 131 non-VA laboratories enrolled in the College of American Pathologists Laboratory Management Index Program (LMIP) during 2002. In addition, secular trends in 5 productivity ratios were calculated for VA and non-VA laboratories enrolled in LMIP from 1997 through 2002. RESULTS: Veterans Health Administration and non-VA facilities did not differ significantly in size. Inpatients accounted for a lower percentage of testing at VA facilities than non-VA facilities (21.7% vs 37.3%; P <.001). Technical staff at the median VA facility were paid more than at non-VA facilities (28.11/h dollars vs 22.60/h dollars, salaries plus benefits; P <.001), VA laboratories employed a smaller percentage of nontechnical staff (30.0% vs 41.9%; P <.001), and workers at VA laboratories worked less time per hour paid (85.5% vs 88.5%; P <.001). However, labor productivity was significantly higher at VA than at non-VA facilities (30 448 test results/total full-time equivalent (FTE)/y vs 19 260 results/total FTE; P <.001), resulting in lower labor expense per on-site test at VA sites than at non-VA sites (1.79 dollars/result vs 2.08 dollars/result; P <.001). Veterans Health Administration laboratories paid less per test for consumables (P =.003), depreciation, and maintenance than their non-VA counterparts (all P <.001), resulting in lower overall cost per on-site test result (2.64 dollars vs 3.40 dollars; P <.001). Cost per referred (sent-out) test did not differ significantly between the 2 groups. Analysis of 6-year trends showed significant increases in both VA (P <.001) and non-VA (P =.02) labor productivity (on-site tests/total FTE). Expenses at VA laboratories for labor per test, consumables per test, overall expense per test, and overall laboratory expense per discharge decreased significantly during the 6-year period (P <.001), while in non-VA facilities the corresponding ratios showed no significant change. CONCLUSIONS: Overall productivity of VA laboratories is superior to that of non-VA facilities enrolled in LMIP. The principal advantages enjoyed by the VA are higher-than-average labor productivity (tests/FTE) and lower-than-average consumable expenses.
Valenstein, PN; Wang, E; O'Donohue, T; College of American Pathologists Laboratory Management Index Program,
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