FOR THE PAST SEVERAL YEARS, and particularly since Congress passed the Patient Access to Medicare Act in 2014, clinical labs have focused on controlling costs, as they should. After all, PAMA calls for steep cuts in what the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will pay clinical labs beginning Jan. 1, 2018. (See TDRs, Oct. 9 and Sept. 18, 2017.)
While cost control needs to be a high priority in every lab, speakers from some of the nation’s most advanced and forward-looking clinical laboratories reminded us last week at the 11th annual Lab Quality Confab that patient care needs to remain our first priority.
In a presentation about the quality improvement journey ARUP Laboratories has been on, Bonnie Messinger, CPHQ, said, “It’s all about patient care.” Messinger, a Six Sigma Black Belt and Process Improvement Manager at ARUP, co-presented with David J. Layton, MSOM, Lean Expert, Improvement Engineering and Operations Leader with ARUP. Now two years into using the laboratory value pyramid as a road map to move two divisions toward the goal of best-in-class performance, the speakers shared the lessons learned, including the need to focus on delivering value to patients.
Gary W. Procop, MD, Medical Director, Enterprise Laboratory Stewardship Committee at the Cleveland Clinic, had a similar and more nuanced, message. “If you do the right thing, good things will follow, including cost savings,” he said. “Chasing savings is just chasing savings. Improving patient care is sustaining.”
This message was mirrored by Denise Uettwiller-Geiger, PhD, DLM(ASCP), Clinical Chemist and Director of Clinical Trials, at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital. In her presentation, she explained how her lab teams worked to cut costs wherever possible to free up resources to create real-time knowledge for better patient outcomes and to ensure patient safety with patient-centric approaches to care.
It is no coincidence that one theme at this year’s Lab Quality Confab was to remind attendees that cost-cutting alone was a losing strategy. Instead, speakers from innovative labs emphasized a dual strategy: smart cost-cutting and projects to add value in ways that improve patient outcomes. Only by executing both strategies effectively will labs survive healthcare’s ongoing transition to value-based provider payments.