The Eastern Ontario Regional Laboratory Association was registered as a non-profit organization in 2003 and consists of 16 member hospitals. It was the first major initiative to implement a corporate regional business model for hospital laboratories in Ontario and serves as flagship initiative for other regions.
The Eastern Ontario Laboratory Coordination Program was the precursor to EORLA, based on the concept of laboratories working together for mutual benefit. In 2000, the Laboratories Branch of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care mandated all Ontario laboratories to participate in group strategic exercises and prepare regional plans for the delivery of laboratory services. The first business case for EORLA was prepared at that time.
EORLA was created in response to a number of primary trends in pathology and laboratory medicine, one of which saw the volume of laboratory tests in Ontario growing at a rate that was on track to surpass the number of laboratory professionals available to support the increase. Statistics showed that laboratory costs were increasing disproportionately to available funding. There was a need to increase capacity, sustain or improve quality and enhance cost-effectiveness moving forward. Greater yet was the strategic goal of supporting and fostering the integration of patient care across the entire healthcare continuum.
The operational transformation to the integrated model was the result of extensive consultation and engagement with member hospitals, labour groups, and employees, along with other stakeholders. The integration model was devised following national best practices and focused on delivering a patient-centric system of laboratory services delivering operational enhancements/efficiencies and portability of lab results. For laboratory clients, the integration would deliver enhanced quality care through standardization. Laboratory employees would benefit from greater opportunities for career mobility and professional development.
Key to the success and sustainability of the EORLA model was the establishment of a funding mechanism. A funding mechanism was designed to address both operating and capital budgeting, with members funding EORLA laboratory operations. While the base operating funds would be for current laboratory services only, a future funding system would allow for a growth in scale and scope of testing.
The funding mechanism allows EORLA to maintain operational flexibility while lowering expenses and retaining savings gains through operational efficiency. It is designed to meet the requirements of EORLA member organizations as both owners and customers. From an owner perspective, members are assured of continuing delivery of laboratory services with sufficient operating funds. As customers, members will benefit from an integrated system of service delivery that enhances quality and generates savings over time through improving efficiency of service and the gradual lowering of costs per test.
The EORLA integration model will be administered through a series of governance agreements with its member hospitals. These include agreements on Membership, Service Levels, Human Resource Transition, Asset Transfer and Occupancy.
EORLA’s transition to a best-in-class integrated service delivery model is nearing the finish line.
With the full implementation of EORLA as a regional corporate operation, laboratories will be able to share resources, both human and physical and be managed as a single unit. Policies, processes and procedures will be aligned for all laboratories, as part of a comprehensive regional quality management program including standardization of test menus and test methodologies and the implementation of a common Laboratory Information System “LIS” allowing patient laboratory test data to be accessed by all physicians served by EORLA.
The next steps are to continue to engage with employees, member hospitals and stakeholders on refining the operational model to set the organization up for success as it evolves toward full integration by the spring of 2012.