For more than 40 years, Psychē Systems has been one of the nation’s leading providers of medical laboratory information systems, or LIS. Offering diverse and dynamic integrated workflow systems to clinical labs, hospitals, and other commercial healthcare industries, Psychē Systems has played a critical role in the advancement of new diagnoses, treatments, and therapies to people across the country. 

One such company who has experienced Psychē System’s advanced and seamless laboratory information systems is KSL Diagnostics (KSL). We recently sat down with Mr. Mike Bianchi, who was the Lab Manager for KSL during their transition to Psychē, to discuss his experience using Psychē’s medical laboratory software and how it has helped his company in the development and advancement of molecular diagnostic and COVID-19 testing. 

The Challenge of Finding an LIS

KSL Diagnostics, headquartered outside of Buffalo, NY, is known as a world-class reference laboratory focusing on providing diagnostic, prognostic, therapeutic and clinical disease management to oncologists, pathologists, and cytogenetic groups. Their laboratory is well known for its expertise in providing solutions, by their ability to work with practitioners to provide insight into developing targeted treatment and prevention plans, and engaging in real time discussion of cases. KSL feels that this point of differentiation sets them apart from many other labs offering molecular and genetic testing and ultimately leads to the best patient care possible.  

This also meant that KSL needed a laboratory information system that could keep up with their testing and aid in their daily functions. Originally, KSL tried developing their own in-house system, which they felt fit their needs, but ultimately required too much of an IT presence for it to be able to scale with their operations. From there, they moved onto another LIS. However, the downside was that the staff had to fit their testing into their new system, as opposed to adopting a LIS system that could adjust to them and their unique needs. KSL found that what set them apart as a lab, also set their needs apart from what other labs were looking for – they needed a system they could customize to analyze their patient’s data. “I found workarounds to pull reports and those kinds of things, and then kind of merge those in Excel and be able to get what I needed,” Bianchi recalled, “…but they were just very cumbersome. To try to teach anybody how to do it was very difficult.”

Furthermore, any changes had to be done by the LIS system at an additional cost. Budget was also a concern, as customizable LIS systems can be quite expensive, and KSL needed to find an option that would let them start small and grow with them as they expanded their services. “Psychē was one of the systems we were looking at. We looked at a handful of them. Some of them were extremely expensive,” he concluded. He wasn’t wrong – some of the systems Mr. Bianchi and his team originally looked at ranged from $300,000 to $1 million. “We were a small lab,” he noted. “We didn’t have that type of need.”

Why KSL Diagnostics Chose Psychē Systems 

Laboratory information systems play an integral role in clinical settings, as they offer automatic ordering/outreach services, practice management systems, interfacing capabilities, and billing networks that support a variety of clinical fields like gastroenterology, pathology, and microbiological testing. Thus, the importance of finding a solution that works for and can be customized to the daily needs of a laboratory is paramount.

When Mike Bianchi joined KSL, they were able to part with their previous LIMS system due to a buyout opportunity. That allowed Bianchi to implement a LIS system that would allow KSL, who was just starting out, to grow and scale with them as they added on clinical laboratory services. He also felt there was a sense of urgency as it was important for the lab to set up and integrate the system while their needs were still small, and their team had the time to dedicate to it.

Thankfully for KSL, Mike Bianchi was already familiar with Psychē Systems from a demo with a previous employer. Knowing that Psychē’s products allowed for heavy customization and add-ons as needed, he felt that Psychē would be the right fit for KSL – and he was correct: “It fit us perfectly,” Bianchi said. Initially, when KSL began working with Psychē in 2018, they had a caseload of 50-100 samples a week, and needed an affordable solution that could be added on to as they grew. Psychē Systems offered KSL Diagnostics a “pay-as-you-go” option that allowed them to put down an initial payment and make monthly payments, similar to a subscription service. Ultimately this fit the company’s needs, allowing them to continually build upon it over time by adding new tests and different services when they needed them. 

The Impact of COVID-19 (And How Psychē Systems Made the Impossible Possible)

By the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, KSL Diagnostics was turning a profit. They were doing more cancer testing than ever. And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and suddenly cancer testing came to a crashing halt.

After speaking with a close friend of his who recommended that they start testing for COVID-19, Mr. Bianchi pitched the plans to upper management. By May of 2020, they decided to move forward and obtained the reagents and testing instruments they needed to get started. According to Bianchi, “It was an eye-opening experience.” 

At the time, only the Erie County Department of Health was doing COVID-19 testing in Western New York. However, they were only processing between 40-50 samples per day. “When you think about the numbers and the mandates that came down with the nursing homes and people at the hospitals, and people just needing to get tested, the area had no other option,” says Bianchi, referring to the growing demand for available testing facilities. 

Once KSL Diagnostics announced their testing availability, they acquired every nursing home in the area, including surrounding counties such as Niagara and Wyoming counties, that didn’t have any resources to test. Early on, the lab was processing upward of 300 samples a day. However, after including nursing home staff that required testing twice a week, they quickly found themselves processing around 2,000 COVID-19 samples per day. With a small team, they looked toward automating their process to help keep up with the demand. Bianchi recalled, “We could run the thousands of samples a day, but how do we result these out? Not just the process of how to do we accept the specimens, get them into the system, run the tests – we still have to result them out and get them to the client – so there were multiple aspects here that we didn’t have answers for…. Which is where the Psychē Systems really came in.”

What KSL really needed was a way for all aspects of their testing process to work together, to reduce not only time and manpower, but also to remove the possibility of human error from occurring. By working closely with the Psychē team, KSL was “…able to kind of integrate these different pieces – it took a few weeks to a month – to be able to integrate the instruments, take the data out of the system, generate our lists, get those lists into the instrument so we knew which sample was in which well, and then be able to integrate the system to take that data and push it back to the LIMS system, result that out, and generate our reports easily.” To help automate their client reports, and make things easier on themselves and their clients, KSL turned back to Psychē for more help: “Another piece of software we added from Psychē, which is called Outreach, where we were able to set up all of these clients with their own access – so they could access their employee testing data in real time. As soon as a test was done and signed out, it was automatically uploaded to Outreach and the client would be notified about the results that they could go in and view.”

The Outcome

When the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced new guidelines for pooling samples, Psychē’s laboratory information system enabled KSL Diagnostics to process over 300 specimens at a time and merge all of the incoming data. By pooling samples, KSL was soon processing 4 times the number of COVID-19 samples, per batch. The Outreach add-on then allowed them to push that data to clients, which saved their team countless hours of manual work while their case load continued to grow. “The only way we were able to do that is with the system. Psychē Systems enabled us to easily go through and pull out all of this data, merge the data, and pull the data from instrument to instrument. We wouldn’t have been able to ramp up without all of those things.”

However, Bianchi says that it wasn’t just the Psychē products themselves that allowed their lab to scale: “It wasn’t even just the software, it was really the people. I was on calls with them almost every other day just trying to get things working and get things to where they needed to be. And they were so helpful – and that’s really why I’m so willing to do whatever I need to for Psychē… they were really there when we needed them. They didn’t blow us off. They helped us out.” KSL and Bianchi credit working with Psychē Systems, and their ability to customize products, for allowing them to lean on automation to keep up with the volume of cases and intensity the COVID-19 pandemic brought upon their lab. “We were talking all of the time to try and get the system work… and they knew the system inside and out. The level of service they gave us was unprecedented, I’ve never been given that kind of customer service with any company – and I’ve worked with every single major company in the scientific world…. I’ve never had that type of customer service. They were there any time I needed them, whenever I called, and they were there to help – and they helped – It wasn’t ‘sorry the system can’t do this,’ it was ‘well, figure it out’… and they did.”

Just like for KSL Diagnostics, Psychē Systems is here to help your lab figure out how our LIS system can be everything you’ve wanted so you can get back to focusing on other aspects of your business. For more on the Psychē Systems suite of products and add-ons, and to learn how they can be customized to your facility’s unique needs, please contact us or call us at 508-372-8460.