Lab Leaders Have New Opportunities in the Age of Consumerism

The G2 Power Panel provided attendees at the 36th annual Lab Institute (Oct. 24-26; Washington, D.C.) an opportunity to learn how some of the nation’s leading laboratories are navigating the current time of transition in the industry.

“We have always been in a state of change,” said James Carson, Ph.D., executive director of enterprise laboratory services at the Cleveland Clinic. “Change is opportunity. Reflect, look, and take advantage of the opportunity to reinvent your lab. But, you must have a strong foundation to benefit from changes.”

Customer service is key, the Power Panel explained. But customer service in 2018 is about more than courteous service and accurate results. The speakers addressed the need for laboratories to be consumer ready and prepared for a new type of client.

“Consumerism is coming,” forewarned Kamal Patel, chief information officer, ELLKAY, a health care connectivity solutions and services company. “Patients are placing lab orders. Other companies are helping patients check costs of orders and can help drive new orders beyond the traditional sales rep. This is coming and labs need to be educated about it, as it can be a new revenue for them.”

Sonny Varadan, chief information officer at Sonora Quest Laboratories spoke of Arizona’s experience as the “heartland” of direct-access testing. The state passed a law allowing individuals to access laboratory testing without a physician’s order.

“We track My Lab ReQuest and the numbers are phenomenal,” said Varadan. “Online payment options are driving transparency. Direct-access is an important dynamic and labs have to embrace this.”

In addition to expanding business opportunities through testing directly to consumers, laboratories also have an opportunity to reshape business with providers.

“Why is Amazon great as an org?” asks Brian Jackson, M.D., medical director, business development, IT, and support services at ARUP Laboratories. “They simultaneously have efficiency and a great customer experience. They own the retail experience end-to-end. We have tried to learn from Amazon. How do we take end-to-end control over the laboratory process.”

Jackson believes that electronic health records (EHRs) are to some extent stymieing laboratories’ efforts to educate and assist physicians with ordering and results interpretation.

“EHRs don’t reflect well for us and don’t help the physician,” said Jackson. “It is not just optimizing EHRs, but how get around them because they are barriers to our business model.”

He urges laboratories to explore innovative ways to connect with physicians, including HIPAA-compliant clinical messaging apps. Efforts like these will go a long way to improving the perceived value of the laboratory beyond just delivering test results.

“We have been lax at getting visible and being part of total health care process,” said Carson. “This requires us to reinvent to a significant degree. … Be prepared to be on the phone with clinicians all day along. With 75,000 new molecular tests, clinicians can’t keep up. They are looking for help with ordering, interpreting, and communicating with patients.”


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