Clinical Laboratory Trends

Clinical laboratories, where tests are done on clinical specimens in order to get information about the health of a patient as pertaining to the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease, are facing numerous challenging trends as healthcare reform continues to evolve.

Some of these clinical laboratory trends include:

  • The Protecting Access to Medicare Act (PAMA) of 2014.

    Under PAMA, many clinical lab organizations will see a substantial decline over the coming years in the prices paid to them for the highest-volume lab tests reimbursed under Medicare Part B. The law specifies that the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) can begin enacting those price cuts in 2017.

  • Laboratory benefit management program

    The laboratory benefit management program is a controversial program created by UnitedHealthcare in 2014. All outpatient laboratory services for members who are part of the Laboratory Benefit Management Program are subject to new requirements including advance notification and new medical policies.

    Physicians serving UHC’s commercial patients in Florida must notify UHC when ordering any of 80 clinical laboratory tests. Pre-authorization is also required for certain tests.

    During its introduction phase, the program has generated widespread resistance from Florida physicians, who protest that it will cause unnecessary delays for patient treatment, and undue burdens for doctors ordering tests. In addition to problems with lab test pre-notification algorithms within the BeaconLBS system, other problems cited by physicians include the exclusion of all but 13 Florida labs from the BeaconLBS “laboratory of choice network.”

  • Accountable care organizations

    ACOs are the product of a provision in the Affordable Care Act of 2010. They are integrated care networks of providers with the ability to provide care to, and manage patients, across the continuum of care that should include different institutional settings, such as ambulatory care, inpatient hospital care, and even post-acute care. Clinical labs have had difficulty gaining entry into newly- forming ACOs.

At the same time, a positive clinical laboratory trend is the increasing popularity of personalized medicine (PM), a medical model that proposes the customization of healthcare – with medical decisions, practices, and/or products being tailored to the individual patient. In this model, diagnostic testing is critically important, as it is often employed for selecting appropriate and optimal therapies based on the context of a patient’s genetic content or other molecular or cellular analysis.

Medicare COVID Test Coding May Become a ‘Logistical Nightmare’

STARTING JAN. 1, 2021, clinical laboratories performing COVID-19 tests using high-throughput systems for Medicare patients must comply with a complex new coding rule when submitting claims for these tests.  The federal Centers for Med…

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Community Lab Ceases after 37 Years of Operation

CEO SUMMARY: In Pennsylvania, one of the state’s largest independent clinical laboratories, HNL Lab Medicine in Allentown, acquired a lab competitor last month, Northeastern Laboratory Medicine in Hazelton. The deal is a good strategic move for both labs because HNL will continue to…

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High-Complexity Mobile Labs for COVID-19 Testing

CEO SUMMARY: Demand for high-complexity mobile coronavirus testing facilities is high, according to the CEO of a start-up company building 25 clinical labs in mobile trailers that can do hundreds of tests per eight-hour day. Employers, schools, event organizers, and other entities all…

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Understanding COVID-19’s Changes to Lab Industry

CEO SUMMARY: With the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic about to enter its eighth month in the United States, it remains difficult to predict whether the pandemic will strengthen with the fall influenza season or steadily diminish. What is clear to most pathologists and clinical laboratory executiv…

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New York Firm to Build CLIA Labs in Shipping Containers

CEO SUMMARY: In many respects, the COVID-19 pandemic is like a gold rush for entrepreneurs. Federal and state governments, colleges, employers, school districts, and other entities need COVID-19 tests and tens of billions of dollars are available to pay for such tests. This modern gol…

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CMS Publishes Proposed 2021 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule

MEDICARE’S PROPOSED PHYSICIAN FEE SCHEDULE (PFS) rule was announced on Aug. 4, 2020. The rule had one positive development for clinical laboratories and hospital laboratory outreach programs and a negative development for anatomic pathologists. Clinical laboratories and hospital outreach lab…

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Amazon Building Labs to Do COVID-19 Testing

CEO SUMMARY: For pathologists and clinical lab directors, Amazon’s nascent lab-testing venture for employees could be a significant concern given that the e-commerce company could disrupt the clinical lab business nationwide. The online retail giant has long had an interest in medic…

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Employers, Others Looking to Build New Clinical Labs

CEO SUMMARY: Employers, universities, municipalities, and other large organizations are interested in building their own clinical laboratories. In addition, entrepreneurs—many with no prior experience in laboratory medicine—want to make money providing COVID-19 testing. Many of th…

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COVID-19 Pandemic Erodes Cash Flow at Clinical Labs

CEO SUMMARY: Every day, national news headlines scream about the shortage of SARS-CoV-2 lab tests needed to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently, national news coverage has begun focusing on concerns about inaccurate or unreliable COVID-19 serology tests. But the story being…

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March, April Patient Visits Drop at Virginia Physician Group and Lab

DURING THE CARONAVIRUS PANDEMIC, gastroenterology and other physician groups with in-house medical laboratories—like most medical practices and clinical laboratories in the United States—have seen a sharp drop in patient visits and specimen volume. That drop occurred at the same time ga…

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