OBJECTIVE: To develop performance indicators for outsourcing clinical laboratory services, based on information systems and public administrative records. METHODS: In the municipality of Rio de Janeiro, Southern Brazil, the public health laboratory network comprised 33 laboratories with automated equipment (but no integrated information system), 90 primary care units (where sample collection was performed) and 983 employees. Information records were obtained from the administrative records of the Budget Information System for Public Health and the Outpatient and Hospital Information System of the Unified Health System. Performance indicators (production, productivity, usage and costs) were generated from data collected routinely from 2006 to 2008. The variations in production, costs and unit prices for tests were analyzed by Laspeyres and Paasche indices, which specifically measure laboratory activity, and by the Consumer Price Index from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. RESULTS: A total of 10,359,111 tests were performed in 2008 (10.6% increase over 2006), and the test/employee ratio grew by 8.6%. The costs of supplies, wages and providers increased by 2.3%, 45.4% and 18.3%, respectively. The laboratory tests per visit and hospitalizations increased by 10% and 20%, respectively. The direct costs totaled R$ 63.2 million in 2008, representing an increase of 22.2% in current values during the period analyzed. The direct costs deflated by the Brazilian National Consumer Price Index (9.5% for the period) showed an 11.6% increase in production volumes. The activity-specific volume index, which considers changes in the mix of tests, showed increases of 18.5% in the test price and 3.1% in the production volume. CONCLUSIONS: The performance indicators, particularly the specific indices for volume and price of activity, constitute a baseline of performance potential for monitoring private laboratories and contractors. The economic performance indicators demonstrated the need for network information system integration prior to an outsourcing decision.
Indicators of Health Services; Laboratories, organization & administration; Automation, Laboratory; Outsourced Services; Clinical Laboratory Information Systems, utilization; Costs and Cost Analysis; Decision Making