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How to set up an Outpatient Based Lab (OBL)

By: Juan Arredondo and Bri Driggers

Thinking of opening an Outpatient-Based Lab (OBL)? There are a few things you should consider prior to investing time and capital in the set-up process. The online webinar we held this month, “How to set up an OBL,“ answers questions related to this topic and covers several important notes you may not have previously thought about. 

The experts at Regents have over 25 years of experience improving performance, positioning, and consulting healthcare organizations for success. During the webinar, Regents Executive Vice Presidents Raif Erim and Sheila Sferrella used their expertise in the industry to answer the following questions relating to OBLs:

Things to consider before investing in an OBL

If you are considering an OBL, one of the most important things to do is the prework. It is not advisable to spend capital before completing all of the prework and making sure the pieces are in place to get set up successfully. For example, one of the first things to consider is whether there are non-compete contracts in place with your hospital and partnering physicians. This matters because you must ensure you are not competing with the hospital you work for and that there is availability in the area for your services.

The second biggest thing to consider is having a good Go to Market Strategy. To successfully set up an OBL, you must have a market strategy that will generate demand and awareness for other physicians that understand the services you will be providing. You want to ensure you have a patient base, referrals from other physicians, and payer contracts to make sure you can bill and collect for the services provided.

It is also vital to decide early on whether you will use your existing tax ID to bill and collect or set up a new tax ID for the OBL. This will involve negotiating new contracts with payers and having to credential your physicians with those new payer contracts. Ultimately, you need to have the correct physicians to provide radiology procedures and properly bill for those services.

Staffing An OBL

Employees are one of the most important parts of any company. In the planning process for an OBL, you might have questions about finding the right staff. Are they going to be part of your existing practice? Will you use existing staff, or will you hire them from competing hospitals?

To fully staff an OBL, you must understand the procedures provided and the mix of staff needed for these services. Regents provides consulting services that create a model to determine the mix of people you need to effectively staff your OBL. This model is based on metrics for your unique geographic area and the mix of procedures you will perform. Here are some top tips for OBL hiring:

  • Focus on scheduling: If you are providing services at a hospital and at an OBL you want the procedures to be scheduled in the right setting.
  • Billing and authorization: You must ensure your OBL is able to properly bill and be authorized before providing the services. Billing for an OBL is quite different from professional diagnostic radiology.
  • Patient flow: Ideally, you want the patient to flow from the waiting room to the procedure room and lastly to the recovery room. Staff is needed to facilitate the patient getting in and out seamlessly.

Equipment Needs Of An OBL

To fully equip an OBL, you must understand what procedures you will be providing. Buying equipment is an area where many hospitals and groups could overspend on unnecessary items. Regents Health offers a market assessment that will determine the demand and volume of procedures and what equipment you will truly need to run an efficient and effective OBL. Equipment must be purchased with return on investment (ROI) in mind.

How Do I Make My OBL Successful?

Raif said it best during the webinar:

The success of an OBL is relationship driven, it is a different approach because you are now pitching your expertise to referring physicians and patients. It is important to communicate what makes your OBL more convenient for a physician to refer a patient and a patient to have their procedure in an outpatient setting instead of the hospital. An OBL is a personal relationship business; IR doctors need to visit referring physicians and build relationships and gain trust in how they will treat their patients. Setting up an OBL is not a simple decision but with the proper research before investing time and capital, you can divide the work evenly into small bite-size pieces.

If you’re considering setting up an OBL and want to make sure you’re making the smartest financial decisions possible, get in touch with our experts to ensure success!