Labs Need to Take Elevated Role in Health Care

Labs need to take a more prominent role in the broader health care ecosystem—from being a recognized member of patient care teams to being a leading player in health system financial discussions.

David Humphreys, global Head of Health Policy Practice for The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), presented findings from the group’s report, “Breaking Down Barriers in Healthcare: An Urgency for the Clinical Laboratory to Move to the Forefront of Patient Care” at G2 Intelligence’s 36th annual Lab Institute (Oct. 24-26; Washington, D.C.).

Despite the essential role laboratory data plays in informing diagnosis and treatment decisions, labs remain under-recognized and under-valued. To put laboratories at the forefront of care requires overcoming deeply entrenched processes and culture that have relegated the laboratory to a sidelined position that lacks integration and empowerment. The current disruption in the health care system provides laboratories a moment of opportunity to recast themselves, have their true value recognized, and become part of a more sustainable, value-based health care system.

The report highlights the gap between the laboratory’s actual value and its perceived value. For instance, A majority of executives believe the laboratory has an important function for delivering higher-quality of care and 70 percent believe laboratories can significantly impact key performance indicators, but 28 percent of laboratory respondents feel they actually impact executives’ key performance indicators, like hospital-acquired infections, and 47 percent of laboratory respondents said they had no direct involvement in setting these performance indicators.

But the report also finds immediate opportunities for laboratories to capitalize on. The majority (77 percent) of surveyed health care providers would value additional test result interpretation from labs, but only 18 percent of lab directors report regularly providing training in diagnostic interpretation.

“Imagine the increasing complexity of care and tests and how difficult it is to stay on top of technology,” said Humphreys. “Errors will occur without that training.”

Not addressing this gap in the laboratory’s ability to provide value beyond that quantitative test result feeds the perception reported by 45 percent providers that they don’t see the lab as valuable source for recommendations and results interpretation. Even worse, 38 percent of executives have “little to no expectation” for laboratories to provide additional insight.

Despite the current gap in aligning laboratory impact and value perception, laboratories can and should utilize their data and clinical expertise to elevate the value of laboratories throughout the health care system. Three-fourths of executives believe agree lab data can be useful for clinical strategy and population health initiatives. It is up to laboratories to step up their role and serve as a bridge between stakeholders.

The Economist Intelligence Unit report was commissioned by Abbott Diagnostics. Click here to read the full report.


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