TWIN TRENDS NOW CREATE an opportunity for clinical labs and pathology groups to build market share. But tapping these new buyers of laboratory tests will require labs to communicate more effectively with consumers.
One trend is the growth in enrollment in health plans that require higher deductibles. Consumers with this type of health coverage are highly motivated to shop around. They want to find the clinical laboratory that offers them the best combination of lab test quality at the lowest price.
The second trend is the increased number of unemployed or under-employed individuals in this country. The recession of 2008-2010 added millions of people to the unemployment rolls. As “cash customers,” many of these consumers must get their lab tests done at an affordable price. Otherwise, they don’t have the lab tests performed at all because they simply don’t have money to pay the lab test charges.
Consumers Want Low Prices
Across the nation, local clinical laboratories are recognizing that these two groups of consumers represent a good business opportunity, particularly since they can pay cash for their laboratory tests at the time the specimen is collected. However, most clinical labs have never targeted consumers with sales and marketing campaigns. Thus, they are not experienced at reaching these consumers.
One lab company in Rhode Island has begun taking steps to help consumers cut healthcare costs associated with laboratory testing. East Side Clinical Laboratory of East Providence, Rhode Island (a business unit of Sonic Healthcare, Ltd.), now operates a stand-alone website designed to educate consumers about laboratory testing and the steps they can take to cut the cost of lab testing.
An Example to other Labs
East Side has built a consumer-oriented website at www.labchoice.org. Under a headline that says “Relief!”, it prominently offers four discussion points, along with information designed to educate consumers that they do have a choice when it comes to ordering and paying for clinical laboratory tests. The questions are:
• Why Use an Independent Lab?
• Common Questions on Choosing a Lab
• About East Side Clinical Lab
• Find a Lab
In addition to this website that provides information to consumers about how they can lower the cost of their laboratory testing, East Side Clinical Laboratories has gone one step further. It has a patient list price schedule that its customer service department uses to quote prices to consumers who call the lab seeking to save money on their laboratory tests. The company believes this price transparency gives it competitive advantage with consumers who need to access lab testing at the lowest possible price.
Today, cash-paying consumers represent a small, but fast-growing segment of the market. For that reason, clinical labs and pathology groups may want to consider how they can better serve these price-motivated buyers of lab tests.