Naval Hospital Guam’s Medical Laboratory: Highly Reliable Every Day

By Naval Hospital Guam Public Affairs

The lab supports three of the hospital inpatient wards as well as the emergency department.

Did you know that 70 percent of medical decisions are the result of lab work?

Medical lab tests are important for many reasons, including early detection and diagnosis of diseases. They also help providers determine the best course of treatment based on an individual’s needs and genetic makeup. Ultimately, lab tests can help improve healthcare quality while keeping long term health care costs low.

The lab at Naval Hospital (NH) Guam is no exception and their door is always open.

According to Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Eric Parillo, the departments leading petty officer, the lab supports three of the hospital inpatient wards as well as the emergency department, and responsible for accessioning (receiving, documenting, and storing), processing, resulting, and mailing patient laboratory results.

The lab consists of roughly 40 staff members, including officers, enlisted members and civilians, who work together to ensure medical testing is performed, and is accurate and timely. These highly trained and skilled individuals help collect blood, tissue or other biological matter from a patient when a lab test has been ordered by a physician.  Once a specimen has been identified as appropriate, per the doctors’ orders, tests are then performed either manually or by using technically advanced instruments.

Highly trained and skilled individuals help collect blood, tissue or other biological matter from a patient when a lab test has been ordered by a physician

When the testing is finished a report with the results is provided to the ordering physician through the hospital’s computer system.  This in turn enables healthcare decisions to be made in regards to the best treatment for the patient.

In 2012, NH Guam also opened a blood donor center which not only enhanced the hospital’s ability to support the military, but also saved money.  Before it opened, Guam was receiving blood donations from Okinawa, Japan. The need in Guam was greater. With local processing, blood is now immediately available, and has saved the Navy approximately 500 dollars for each unit of blood and 250 dollars per unit of platelets.

The center has been so successful that it now helps to support all of the U.S. Pacific Command’s (USPACOM) area of responsibility. It processes approximately 1,500 blood products per year in support of the hospital, and those forward deployed to different commands within USPACOM. The donor center maintains an inventory, at any given time, of about 600 blood products with an estimated worth of almost two million dollars. The center does this by hosting several blood drives throughout the year. This year they have staged 60 mobile blood drives which yielded 1,200 whole blood donations,  which in turn will help save the Navy thousands of dollars and most importantly, many lives.

In 2012, NH Guam opened a blood donor center, which not only enhances the hospital’s ability to support the military, but also save money.

Within Navy Medicine, NH Guam is the fourth largest collection, processing and shipping center for blood products and the seventh largest volume and processing center for patient samples, processing approximately 560 thousand specimens annually.

When it comes to a culture of safety, the lab is one of the most scrutinized areas of a hospital. NH Guam is regulated by many organizations, including the American Association of Blood Banks, Federal Drug Administration, Navy Occupational Safety & Health, The Joint Commission, and the  College of American Pathologists.

Across healthcare, hospitals are striving to become high reliability organizations (HRO). An HRO avoids catastrophes in a high risk, complex environment. There must always be a continual emphasis on team work, leadership engagement, and safety.

According to Capt. Michael Thomas, the laboratory’s pathologist and in charge of the lab’s quality control, the lab is important as one of the few objective measures of a patient’s health and is heavily relied upon in critically ill patients.  The lab is always focused on precision and accuracy, tests calibrations of instruments several times a year and completes multi-laboratory proficiency testing on every analytic menu.

Each year, millions of Americans are affected by medical mistakes. Studies show that these mistakes are costing billions of dollars annually. Medical laboratories play a critical role in healthcare. Because lab results have such a great impact on medical diagnosis, the people who work in the lab at NH Guam understand they play a vital role in the perseverance of patient safety.

According to Thomas, the laboratory community was an early adopter of HRO principles and hold themselves to the highest of standards every day.