Is Your Medical Lab Due for an Upgrade?

March 25, 2024
Scientist in lab coat looking at microscope

Medical laboratories play a critical role in non-acute healthcare facilities by offering a variety of testing services, yet the labs are often located in the worst area of the building. As a result, labs are typically plagued by inadequate lighting, poor heating and cooling, non-ergonomic working environments and other issues.

Facilities must determine if their labs need to be modernized to provide a better working space for employees, offer cutting-edge technologies for faster testing or ensure comfortable working conditions. Updating the lab can include allowing natural light inside, replacing outdated testing equipment with new models, and creating employee-friendly work stations that are safe and ergonomic to encourage fast, effective lab testing.


If lab employees have noticed an increase in workloads or are having trouble keeping up with the existing requests, it may be due to inefficiencies in the lab setup. Outdated equipment may not meet current demand, while workflows may be ineffective due to a physical bottleneck in the laboratory. Any delay in testing can cause a backlog, which increases the time it takes for patients to get their results.

Upgrading the layout and removing barriers to testing processes can encourage streamlined operations. That’s because older labs may have an outdated infrastructure, design or layout that’s preventing the lab from reaching its full potential. Adding headcount will not solve the problem if the lab is already working at full capacity.

In addition, outdated plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems may keep employees from getting the water, electricity, and heating and cooling needed to work efficiently and be comfortable. Any safety concerns, such as a lack of easily accessible emergency exits, poor lighting or inadequate chemical storage, should also prompt updates.


Medical labs must be compliant with various regulations. The inability to meet current, new or emerging compliance requirements may force upgrades. The lab configuration should minimize contamination risk, in the event of an issue such as a chemical leak or a spill, while supporting efficient and safe testing processes.
The lab should meet both the current and long-term strategic goals for the facility. This includes having the infrastructure to support uninterrupted connectivity to the rest of the facility and also support high-tech testing equipment without power failures.
Maintenance costs can also play a role. Frequent breakdowns in the building infrastructure or the testing tools are indicators that it’s time for an upgrade. Investing in a new or remodeled lab with modern equipment is typically a better long-term strategy than constantly repairing old tools and a deteriorating lab.  


Lab equipment may have a specific lifespan. As it ages and reaches or surpasses that lifecycle, it may become less accurate and less reliable. For example, medical equipment that requires more frequent maintenance or repairs to perform correctly may be reaching the end of its expected lifespan.
Facilities should track recurring issues or unexpected downtime for each piece of equipment to understand its total cost of ownership. The volume of testing can also be a consideration. Old technology can potentially be more time-consuming to perform tests, while new equipment that’s highly efficient may be able to conduct more tests without increasing staffing.
By replacing legacy equipment, non-acute facilities may realize time and money savings. Depending on the organization’s needs and budgeting strategy, new equipment can be purchased or rented. Modern equipment and instruments allow organizations to benefit from the latest technological advances, which can improve testing accuracy. 


“With a modern lab, facilities can benefit from fast, accurate results, enhanced employee experiences and increased patient satisfaction. ”


Once stakeholders decide that an upgrade is needed, the next step is to determine if the existing lab should be remodeled or if an entirely new space is needed. Factors driving that decision include:

  • Space: Does the facility need more space than is offered by the existing lab? If additional space is not an option, renovation is the answer.
  • Cost: Would building a new lab be more cost effective and better meets the facility’s infrastructure needs?
  • Technology: Are the upgrades mostly technology related and fit within the existing lab?

If the lab will be remodeled, the facility may need a temporary location to use while the project is underway. Once the decision is made to remodel or build a new lab, next steps include:

  • Planning the architecture and design of the lab
  • Determining costs and timelines
  • Identifying the lab equipment that’s needed
  • Having a contingency plan in case something goes wrong

A group purchasing organization (GPO) can help with all stages of planning and help ensure competitive prices on everything needed for an upgrade, from remodeling materials to chairs and workstations to lab equipment. A GPO has the expertise and supplier relationships to accurately plan and implement an upgrade, then monitor progress to drive completion within time and budget parameters.
With a modern lab, facilities can benefit from fast, accurate results, enhanced employee experiences and increased patient satisfaction. 

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