Harvey Guindi – Health Network Laboratories
Located in Allentown, Pennsylvania, HNL Lab Medicine is one of the country’s leading full-service medical laboratories, providing testing and related diagnostic services to physicians, hospitals, long-term care facilities, employers and industrial accounts through its 60 regional patient centers.
When Harvey Guindi joined HNL as its new CIO in 2013, that legacy was a big reason why. But while the company’s reputation was unquestionable, its IT operations—vast, deep and wildly complex—needed an overhaul.
“When I saw the high complexity involved in providing laboratory results, I knew we needed to build a nimble organization,” Guindi recalls. “It was critical to constantly innovate our infrastructure, build a secure service and a variety of capabilities that supports different stakeholders. From the front lines to the executives, you need to understand what’s going on—and find opportunities for innovation. It takes effort, and it takes time.”
Over the next seven years, Guindi and his team created an entirely new IT paradigm within the company—one that put process efficiency squarely at the fore.
Little did he know just how crucial that foundation would become.
Coping with COVID-19
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early March, Guindi and his team quickly realized that they had to do more than create a better data center—they had to transcend the traditional role of IT.
“The question we had to ask ourselves was, ‘What does IT mean in this new world?’” Guindi recalls. “As a company that provides medical testing, answering that question was especially critical.”
The challenges were many and immediate. As the demand for COVID-19 tests escalated, the supply chain required to produce the tests—in particular, the nasal swabs used to collect patient samples—quickly became overburdened. By mid-April, they were nowhere to be found.
Within three weeks, Guindi’s team had launched an initiative to use HNL’s 3D additive manufacturing capacity to produce thousands of collection swabs. The goal, Guindi says, was to give the broader supply chain enough time to replenish its stocks.
By May, the company was offering COVID-19 antibody tests to the general public, allowing patients to see whether they’ve been exposed to the virus in the past, while giving epidemiologists important data.
“Right now, the COVID-19 antibody test is by far our number one selling test,” Guindi says. “People want to know if they’ve had the disease.”
On the home front
As HNL scrambled to boost its production capacity, another challenge loomed equally large: helping the company’s 300 nonessential employees transition to a new work-at-home reality.
Leveraging HNL’s existing virtual and cloud-based solutions, Guindi and his team were able to get everyone working remotely within 48 hours—while ensuring that the company’s data was properly protected.
“When you’re dealing with medical data, there’s no room for error,” Guindi says. “So we had to make sure that everything was airtight.”
As the region’s positivity rate slowed, getting back to offering a full array of testing—for everything from pregnancy and blood counts to strep throat and celiac disease—became paramount. Albeit with an added emphasis on patient safety.
Within weeks, HNL had deployed a new touchless remote check-in via the company’s website, allowing patients to be tested within minutes of registering. Rather than sitting in a waiting room, patients can stay in their cars and get a text when the phlebotomist is ready to see them.
“It definitely helps patients feel safer getting the care they need,” Guindi says.
Transcending the traditional role of IT
Even before COVID-19, wielding the right IT tools was a priority for Guindi. Each year, HNL delivers more than 60 million clinical and anatomic pathology results for close to 3 million patients—and another 12,000 healthcare providers. Given the company’s sheer size and scope, process efficiency is critical.
Not long after joining HNL, Guindi noticed that staff were spending countless hours processing 6,000 weekly phone calls, a third of which were requests to reprint labels.
Thanks to robotic process automation (RPA), not only has HNL lessened the burden on its call center; it allowed the company to better manage its labels.
“Before, it took four people up to five minutes per call to complete a request. Now, it takes 30 seconds,” Guindi says. “This is a perfect example of how you can remove error and improve response time by really getting to know the processes and the people behind them.”
One company that’s been key to HNL’s improved efficiency is XIFIN. Since 2015, the companies have partnered on projects including overhauling HNL’s bill payment services. Specifically, HNL transformed its revenue cycle processes with XIFIN’s platform, featuring extensive automation, enhanced portals, advanced analytics and artificial intelligence. With XIFIN, HNL has been able to automate its billing workflow and improve cash collections—while enhancing patient engagement.
“Harvey’s proactive and engaging approach has enabled our two organizations to find ways to continuously improve efficiency and cash recovery, while also improving the patient’s overall experience,” says Lee Ann Nichols, chief customer officer at XIFIN. “Addressing the importance of the patient’s time and need for access to information increases both engagement and satisfaction.”
Lessen the load
Another example of Guindi’s IT vision involved what he saw as an uneven workload among the company’s 25-plus pathologists. After taking a deep dive into the department’s processes—work distribution, schedules and so on—the team created a custom app designed to make the best use of HNL’s most valuable resource: its people.
“It’s always the perspective I’ve taken to see how part of the business works or doesn’t work,” he says. “It helps me see potential areas for improvement in key areas.”
For Guindi, lab medicine is a critical part of the broader healthcare apparatus—a practice that, despite operating very much behind the scenes, can deliver life-altering results.
Indeed, it was that sense of essentiality that first brought Guindi to HNL—and one that continues to drive him—no matter the challenges ahead.
“As IT professionals, we’re not medical directors or life scientists, but we are fundamental to overall healthcare management; delivering services and tools internally and externally with an incredible focus on accuracy and experience,” Guindi says. “Everything we do comes back to a real person waiting for the answer. It’s exciting. We know enough about the business to impact it positively in a quiet, but deliberate, manner—one test, one answer, one insight at a time.”
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