Put to the test: St. Mary’s opens high-tech lab

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Dianna Grieger and Jeremy Grant work in the new lab at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Grand Junction. Automated equipment is expected to speed operations at a facility that handles more than 2 million tests a year. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

When Bryan Johnson looks over the additional space and automated equipment in the new laboratory at
St. Mary’s Medical Center, he sees the potential for faster and more efficient testing that in turn will improve care and help lower costs.

But the president of St. Mary’s also has another priority in mind. “It is all about patient safety.”

Another other things, the equipment will automatically load test results into electronic patient records — eliminating a step and reducing the risk of human error, Johnson said.

St. Mary’s Medical Center hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour to unveil the laboratory.

Bryan Johnson

At 20,000 square feet, the new lab is
25 percent bigger than the 50-year-old facility it replaced, which affords room for additional equipment as well as a better layout, Johnson said.

Kevin Dryanski, laboratory services director at St. Mary’s, put it another way: “It looks like a spaceship in comparison to what the older lab looks like.”

The new lab cost about $26 million. Along with a new inpatient pharmacy that opened in St. Mary’s nearly a year ago, the facilities represent a $52.8 million investment.

Dryanski said the new lab is the most efficient and advanced facility of its kind between Denver and Salt Lake City.

Accredited by the College of American Pathologists, the new clinical laboratory automation line brings to Grand Junction the most current technology available, he said. The automated embedding technology in pathology is one of less than 200 in the country.

The automation line in the new lab will decrease testing time at least 5 minutes for most specimens and even more for other specimens, he said.

That’s important, he added, because the lab processes more than 2 million specimens a year. The lab provides a range of services not only for St. Mary’s Medical Center, but also clinics, practices and health care agencies across Western Colorado.

Johnson said the new facility offers additional capacity with faster testing times — and increased patient safety.  “We’re super proud of this effort.”