From left, Maureen Wladkowski, Monique Mele, Maria Papa, Kelli Preble, Jackie DeLuca and Laura Wacker.
Pentucket Medical Labs: A Hub Of Science-Based Medical Care
By 6 p.m., Pentucket’s Medical’s Haverhill offices are largely quiet, the waiting rooms and hallways empty of patients. But in one section of the 3rd floor, the workday is reaching its peak.
“This is our busiest time of the day,” says Monique Mele, manager of Pentucket Medical Laboratory. “and Tuesday is our busiest day of all.”
Late in the day, a steady stream of couriers arrives, bearing beach-style coolers that are packed with test samples. Intake of specimens is ongoing amidst the quiet hum and woosh of high- tech analytical machinery.
Pentucket Labs is one of the busiest facilities its kind in Massachusetts, ranked 12th based on volume of tests, and is growing by average of 120,000 “labs” a year. In 2008, the lab conducted nearly two million tests. Many of these tests will have been ordered by Pentucket clinicians, as such, the lab plays a pivotal role in the Pentucket Medical system of care. Nearly all – 95 percent – of tests ordered by Pentucket clinicians are handled by the lab.
“What we do here usually starts with a doctor ordering a test,” Monique explains. “The slip from the doctor goes to phlebotomy, and one of the members of the team draws the blood and enters the study’s details into a data system, which sends information to both the lab and to billing. The system also generates a bar code which is affixed to the sample.”
In the Haverhill lab, Monique and her colleagues are on the receiving samples flowing in from Pentucket’s Newburyport, RiverWalk and Haverhill phlebotomy teams, as well as from other healthcare providers. As an independent operation, Pentucket Labs provides analysis for non-affiliated health care providers, among them Andover OB-GYN and Lawrence-based Home Health VNA, which serves a large swath of Northeastern Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire.
“Our equipment reads the bar code so the machine knows what to do,” Monique continues. “It runs the tests and the results flow back into the lab system where our technicians review everything for Quality Assurance.”
“When we are sure the test was run properly, then the results are released,” she says. “If the test was ordered by a Pentucket clinician, a notice that the test results are available appears as a flag on the screen of the caregiver’s EMR device.”
In most cases study outcomes are returned to the doctor within 24 hours, often on the same day they were ordered. The swift turnaround enables physicians to reduce patient anxiety by providing test results almost immediately and providing prompt treatment, when indicated.
With its growth, Pentucket Medical Laboratories has been investing in new technology. In 2009 the lab integrated a new device which handles all endocrinology and hepatitis studies.
Pentucket Medical physicians appreciate the lab as a tremendous clinical resource.
“Every clinical decision that I make as an endocrinologist will hinge somehow the laboratory studies,” says David Toth, MD, who joined our clinical staff last year. “Having a lab in-house on which to relay allows me both to have the rapid answers that patients need, as well as assuring that I can have a part in the quality control over the tests.”
Its high-tech equipment notwithstanding, it is old-fashioned human expertise and experience that ensures quality results. Monique, who came aboard 19 years ago “right our of college” says that most of her colleagues have worked at the lab longer than her.
Pentucket Medical Laboratories staff includes Marie Papa, Jacqueline DeLuca, Patricia Souliotos, Laura Wacker, Leslie Brown and Kelli Prebble. Additionally Claire Sullivan and Susan Hale help out on a per diem basis.
All are certified by the American Society of Clinical Metabologists.