Christine Richards, director of laboratory services, described many aspects of the changes in medical laboratories, include the four on Phelps County Regional Medical Center properties.
Richards spoke Wednesday night as the monthly educational speaker for the PCRMC Board of Trustees.

“Explosive” is the way Christine Richards, director of laboratory services, described many aspects of the changes in medical laboratories, include the four on Phelps County Regional Medical Center properties.
Richards spoke Wednesday night as the monthly educational speaker for the PCRMC Board of Trustees. She spoke at the Finance Committee meeting, held at 5:30 p.m., which was followed by the full board business meeting.
Richards said the labs at PCRMC employ 58 people, including two pathologists. She said the tenure of the employees ranges from just a couple of weeks for new hires to a 39-year veteran.
Not so explosive is the number of tests. Although the number is large, 550,000 billable tests each year, the number has been “flat” for a number of years.
That’s due to a number of reasons, such as Medicare rules regarding utilization, changes in insurance coverage, insurance companies hiring national labs such as LabCorps instead of using local hospital labs and something called bundling of services.
Shawn Hodges, administrative director of ancillary services, said the number of tests performed was actually6 750,000, but due to “bundling,” 200,000 of those tests were not counted as separate billable actions.
What is “explosive” is the availability of tests in areas such as histology and pathology. New tests give physicians new insights into patients’ conditions, and she mentioned a new test that is becoming available that she predicted will see an explosion in its use.
The main lab is in the PCRMC building. There are also labs in the Medical Office Building, the Delbert Day Cancer Institute and the Waynesville Medical Plaza.
About 1,200-1,400 tests are done at the Waynesville facility per month. The lab department reaches out to take blood and perform tests off the PCRMC properties, and this accounts for about 825 per month.
There is a continued explosion in technology with molecular testing moving from urban areas to regional hospitals. The next step will be microbiology.
“It’s new,” Richards said. “and it’s expensive.”
Looking at challenges, she noted the changes in federal health care laws that could take thousands off of insurance.
The positives, she said, are the good responses on surveys from patients, the quality of the tests and the collaboration internally and externally.
Richards gave her educational report in an engaging, animated way, and afterwards, CEO Ed Clayton told the board, “I appreciate Christine. She brings an energy unheard of in any lab.’
In the Finance Committee meeting, hospital controller Kate Watterson gave the monthly financial report.
She noted the adjusted average daily census for May was 260, highest monthly total in five years. The adjusted average daily census number is weighted to include outpatient services.
Operating revenue in May, $12.2 million, was 1.8 percent above budget. Expenses  of operations for the month were $20.4 million, 1 percent above budget. Income for the month was $727,000, exceeding budget by $183,000, giving the hospital a 3.4 percent operating margin.
For the year, operating revenues total $101,493,00, with expenditures at $98,376,000. That gives the hospital year-to-date income of $3,118,000, a 3.1 percent operating margin.
The Finance Committee recommended the financial report to the full board, which subsequently approved it. The board also approved the integrated quality assessment report and the chief of staff report, too.
Clayton also gave a brief report on strategic planning, noting that a special board meeting will be held sometime in late July or early August to discuss it.