There is No Table: Gain Influence without Waiting for a Seat


There is No Table: Gain Influence without Waiting for a Seat

Catch phrases—convenient sayings that quickly convey meaning. We all use them, especially when we’re talking shop. Common ones include:

Having skin in the game
Preaching to the choir
Pushing the envelope

But familiar phrases sometimes trap us. They fly right through our minds. We often repeat them without truly examining them.

So let’s examine one—a catch phrase our lab leaders have been hammering home for some time now: the importance of laboratorians having a seat at the table to exert influence within and beyond the lab.

But what does having a seat at the table actually mean?

Article highlights:

  • Having a seat at the table is an oft-repeated phrase that can actually encourage passivity in laboratorians
  • Instead of focusing on the “table,” laboratorians should seek out opportunities to consult informally with care teams and patients
  • By leading “virtual table” consultations, laboratorians can become key influencers in patient care

Contributing Lab Leaders

Keith Laughman, D.B.A.

Keith Laughman, D.B.A.

TRG Healthcare

Rob Atlas

Rob Atlas

President and CEO
Atlas Medical

Lester Wold, M.D.

Lester Wold, M.D.

VitalHealth Software


Philip Chen, M.D., Ph.D.

Philip Chen, M.D., Ph.D.

Chief Healthcare Informatics Officer
Sonic Healthcare


Judy Springer

Judy Springer

Vice President of Quality/Case Management
North Kansas City Hospital

So many tables

Laboratorians can pull up to different tables to elevate their value and contribute to the overall success of health care systems. So you may be thinking about having a seat at the table for things like:

  • C-suite presentations

  • Payer negotiations

  • Tumor boards

  • Care team consultations

  • Patient advocacy

These are all valid “tables.” And gaining a seat at them requires real work.

For example, if you’re sitting down with your C-suite, you need ideas with evidence-based data supporting their implementation. This will help you earn your seat—and maintain it. Gaining a seat is a process. It takes time and effort. Depending on your circumstances, the table you’re targeting may seem like a faraway goal.

Therein lies the trap.

The table is not the goal. Improving the health of patient populations is. Expanding the reach of your lab’s services is. Realizing greater cost savings is. And these goals can be accomplished through methods that don’t involve sitting at a table.

To put it bluntly: we shouldn’t wait to plant ourselves in a seat at a table someone invites us to. Instead, we need to get on our feet and take the table to them. Right here, right now. Today.

Toss out the table

Try this visualization. Imagine a table in a C-suite boardroom, with an axe in the corner.

First, grab the axe. Hack the legs off the table.

The tabletop is now resting on the floor. Is the table still a table without its legs? Now swing the axe again. Chop the top in half.

You’ve destroyed the table. But you suddenly have a revelation:

The table isn’t gone.

The table is everywhere.

The table is not a table

It bears repeating: the table is everywhere. The table is any opportunity that pops up for you to help in the health care process beyond the four walls of the lab. The table is a random hallway conversation that becomes a clinical care consultation. The table is a phone call to share lab results that turns into a chat about a groundbreaking program. The table is walking out the lab door and rounding with clinicians on the hospital floor.

The table is not a real table—it is a virtual one. Learn to recognize virtual tables when they appear. Learn to use them to initiate conversations about issues that matter to you and that can propel your lab forward.

Transcend self-limiting behavior

All it requires is some agility in your thinking. Sidestep self-limiting beliefs that leave you locked in the lab. Challenge the limits of your comfort zone. Embrace opportunities as they emerge.

Be active, not passive. Our lab leaders see this as absolutely essential to the future success of laboratories nationwide.

The path forward

Here’s an example of actively seizing the opportunity to engage colleagues at a virtual table.

Say you’re a pathologist on the phone with an ordering physician or her staff. Typically, this is a nuts-and-bolts conversation. But what if you made this interaction less typical? To level up your interactions and have a seat at the table, consider providing value-boosting services to ordering physicians such as:

  • Diagnostic algorithms

  • Point-of-order testing

  • Test ordering decision support

This can get you a seat at even bigger tables out in the community and across care settings. It’s a way to move forward by hearkening back to a consultative role.

The tables are turning

Our lab leaders see today’s technology, scientific advancements and changing reimbursement systems all lining up in a way that facilitates this consultative, physicians’ physician, role for laboratorians. Actively embrace the emerging role and you will have a seat at tables both virtual and real, helping to move your lab—and laboratory medicine—forward toward better outcomes.

Additional resources

Disclaimer: Keith Laughman was not employed by or affiliated with Roche as of the original date of publication for this article.

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