As we’ve previously written, medical laboratories need to figure out how to provide value-added services at a sustainable cost in order to survive the predicted increases in consolidation and accountability. Value-added services — service in general — as well as transparency are expected to be differentiating factors for the labs that will succeed in this environment.
In the last few years, technology-oriented solutions have been on the rise. LabCorp has come out with Beacon; Quest has come out with Inovalon. These, as well as the solutions provided by Viewics, are data-driven solutions designed to help laboratory partners and customers order tests and services more efficiently and effectively. So, we asked lab outreach industry leader Sonny Varadan how he thinks hospital-based laboratories that may not have these types of tools and technologies can provide more value-added service and insight to their physician customers around how they’re ordering tests, and where there might be opportunities for optimization.
Sonny Varadan, MBA, PMP —Director for IT Strategy and Client Connectivity at a major reference laboratory
From what I’ve read in the news about LabCorp’s and Quest’s initiatives, they’re centered around utilization management, backed by strong decision support systems. If you boil that all the way down into an EMR — EMRs do have decision support systems — as a physician walks through a diagnosis, it does help the physician make the final decision. But, looking at the big picture, if I am a physician or a provider-based practice, then I’m looking for service from the lab, which translates to turnaround time (TAT) for the lab tests I have sent in, and and service for my patients, which is accessibility and transparency, because most of the billing anymore is third-party payer billing — so that’s not the big differentiator — and there are some segments with client billing. So, TAT is something which you can constantly monitor, and a lot of labs to offer same-day service, where you send in a test and you can get the results right away.
Definitely with the empowered patient, or the patient who wants to be more engaged, which is a lot more than what it was quite a few years ago, is the ability to look up the results either through a mobile application or going online. These are simple services you can provide as a lab. It doesn’t take rocket science to provide these.
“The empowered patient wants the ability to look up results either through a mobile application or online These are simple services you can provide as a lab.”
And with meaningful use, and also from an accountable care perspective, EMRs and meaningful use in EMR interfaces — again, it is not as difficult to provide these interfaces, and this is also a big competitive factor today, because it’s the TAT on getting an EMR implemented. As I always say, “no interface, no revenue.” It’s becoming true anymore that you have to be able to quickly and efficiently provide for these services.
And last but not least, physicians need to know how the lab is performing. It’s very important to give feedback to the physician, whether it’s for population health management or whether it’s just telling them, “You know, for the test you ordered, we have been consistently 99% or better in terms of how we have turned around these tests back to you, whether it’s a stat test or a routine test you ordered. And so, you can use data everywhere, but at the same time, you have to be ready to provide all these value-added services.
To get more of Sonny’s insights into the future of laboratory outreach, download “Where Do We Go From Here? Laboratory Outreach in a Value-Based Era“.