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The Triangle of Pain

The explanation and solution to Lab Medicine and Healthcare “Value Gaps”

By Jeremy Schubert, MBA, MPH | 12 April 2021


If you’ve worked in healthcare long enough, you’ve experienced those moments where the asks seem unreasonable and the challenge never-ending.  As Lab Medicine, we constantly live with the dreaded “more with less” request and continue to fight for seats at the table and investment in our business and for our people.

First, we need to accept expectations are NOT too high.  Given the pace of change in Healthcare, rising expectations and increasing complexity are staples.  We have to build the mindset and strategic mentality that ensures we anticipate and consistently rise to the challenge. 

Secondly, Lab Medicine is the hidden engine that can close the Healthcare Value Gap.  Most Healthcare Systems are struggling to keep pace with the expectations themselves.  A strong and adaptable Lab Medicine Department can unlock a ton of incremental value AND help the Health System itself rise to the challenge.

The issue is that healthcare sometimes is more iterative than innovative for a variety of meaningful reasons … particularly in Lab Medicine.  As Lab Medicine, we primarily define ourselves by what we produce (a quality result) and look mostly at traditional metrics to determine performance and success (e.g., TAT, CPT, etc.).  This static to historic lens almost always ends with some gap between the current actual and desired states.  In other words, the Lab adapts very well to the past, but not so strong for the future.

When consistently confronted with this is the situation, there are two questions we should ask ourselves:

  • Why is it happening?
  • How do we get out of it?

To answer these questions, I like to use The Triangle of Pain framework.