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Championing Change

by | Mar 25, 2024 | Essential, Lab Industry Advisor, Legislation-lca

How clinical laboratory professionals can advocate for legislative and regulatory improvements

It’s a time of upheaval for clinical laboratories in the United States, as major legislative and regulatory changes such as the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 20141 and the proposed rules regarding laboratory-developed tests2 come under consideration. Laboratory professionals understand the significance of these changes and their potential effects on patient care—but how can individuals and institutions push for positive change on a national level? Read on to find out some steps for successful advocacy . . .

Educate yourself

Understand the needs of the wider clinical laboratory.

Be able to explain the clinical lab’s needs and priorities and the benefits of having those needs met. It’s helpful to speak with colleagues in other lab and healthcare roles to help you understand others’ priorities and where they overlap with your own.

Understand the value of your work.

Those outside the healthcare profession may not realize how foundational the clinical lab is to patient care. Although the oft-cited claim that lab results are responsible for 70 percent of all medical decisions is under debate,3 objective studies demonstrate the degree to which the lab underpins public health, diagnosis, treatment selection and monitoring, follow-up care, and more.4

Understand the issue(s) under discussion.

If you’re campaigning in favor of a specific resource or decision, be able to explain why it would make your work better—and how that would benefit the public. Will patients receive faster or more accurate diagnoses? Will the cost of testing decrease? Will more people have access to care?

Educate others

Know what to say.

A short “elevator pitch” will enable you to explain your perspective in plain language without losing your listeners’ interest. For the public, this can help you garner support—people who understand why the issue matters to them are more likely to join you in your advocacy. For policymakers, this can help them understand the potential effects of a change and how their decisions will impact voters; it can also function as an opener for a more in-depth conversation.

Know whom to talk to.

Often, this is as simple as reaching out to your representatives in government. Online tools can help you identify your Senate and House representatives based on your location. The Association for Diagnostics & Laboratory Medicine (ADLM) provides some tips for writing to a representative:5

    • Be brief and to the point. Lead with your purpose. If discussing a specific bill or law, use its official name or number. If you are contacting a specific representative for a reason—for instance, because they are on a relevant committee—mention this in the letter.

    • Focus on one issue per letter. Your comments will have the greatest impact if you time them to coincide with key legislative steps; for instance, when a bill is in committee.

    • Explain who you are and how the issue affects not only you, but also the representative’s local area or voter community. If possible, use real-life examples or illustrations (without impacting patient privacy).

    • Engage in good faith. If you want to argue against a specific change or piece of legislation, outline the issues that have led to your conclusion. If possible, suggest alternative approaches that may lead to a better overall outcome.

  • Pre-filled templates can be an effective way to communicate your views with minimal effort—but original letters are likely to gain more attention. If using a template, consider altering or extending the text to personalize it.

For telephone conversations, much of the same advice applies: contact the right person, identify yourself and the issue you want to discuss, keep your comments brief and constructive, and request a response or update from the representative’s office when possible.

Know who can help.

Many professional organizations have experts or committees focused on advocating for their membership. Several offer advocacy toolkits and templates to guide your efforts, such as those from the ADLM,6 the American Society for Clinical Pathology,7 or the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.8 Your institution may also have an advocacy committee or other resources you can request to support your work—or you may be able to leverage local news, social media, or even in-person events to move the conversation forward.

Top tips from advocates

Keren Landsman, epidemiologist and founder of Israeli public health organization Mida’at, says, “Find an ally within the government who understands the importance of your work. It’s easier to reach government officials with help from an insider—and they tend to listen more than when you come alone.” Landsman also recommends avoiding technical jargon when engaging in advocacy. “What we consider basic isn’t really basic to people outside our field. I personally do ‘trial runs’ on my family to work out where my language is too technical. Remember that your goal isn’t to sound like the smartest person on the planet; it’s to be understood.”

Healthcare and disability advocate Courtney Johnson concurs. “The most important thing to keep in mind is that your representatives are just people—and their job is to represent you, your colleagues, and your district. Don’t feel intimidated by the prospect of advocacy. Your knowledge matters and your input is valuable.”

Michele Mitchell, an experienced patient advocate who works with multiple pathology and laboratory medicine groups, says, “Many people—including policymakers, healthcare administrators, and even some healthcare providers—may not fully understand the role and importance of pathologists and lab medicine professionals. Take every opportunity to educate these stakeholders about the vital contributions you make to patient care, diagnosis, and treatment decisions.” She recommends collaborating with other healthcare professionals to advance common goals. “By forming partnerships and alliances with other stakeholders, you can amplify your advocacy efforts and achieve greater impact.”

Mitchell also advises focusing on outcomes. “Emphasize the direct impact pathologists and lab medicine professionals have on patients. Share stories and case studies that demonstrate how your work leads to accurate diagnoses, timely treatment decisions, and improved outcomes. Putting a human face on the importance of the lab can be a powerful advocacy tool.”

Landsman, a former government employee herself, offers a final piece of advice. “Remember the ‘what’s in it for me?’ rule. When you speak with people in power, you need to help them understand why your concerns are important not just on a national or global level, but for them and the people they represent. For government officials, that means talking about the ways clinical lab concerns affect their daily lives and the lives of people—that is, voters—in their communities.”


    1. H.R.4302 – Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014. Congress.gov. April 1, 2014. https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/4302/text.

    1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Medical Devices; Laboratory Developed Tests. Federal Register. October 3, 2023. https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2023-10-03/pdf/2023-21662.pdf.

    1. Hallworth MJ. The ‘70% claim’: what is the evidence base? Ann Clin Biochem. 2011;48(Pt 6):487–488. doi:10.1258/acb.2011.011177.

    1. Olver P et al. Central role of laboratory medicine in public health and patient care. Clin Chem Lab Med. 2022;61(4):666–673. doi:10.1515/cclm-2022-1075.

    1. Association for Diagnostics & Laboratory Medicine. Communicating with Congress. https://www.myadlm.org/advocacy-and-outreach/advocacy/advocacy-toolkit/communicating-with-congress.

    1. Association for Diagnostics & Laboratory Medicine. Advocacy Toolkit. https://www.myadlm.org/advocacy-and-outreach/advocacy/advocacy-toolkit.

    1. American Society for Clinical Pathology. ASCP Negotiation & Advocacy Toolbox. https://www.supportcdconelab.org/toolbox.

    1. American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Advocacy toolkit. https://www.asbmb.org/advocacy/toolkit.

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