COVID-19 Changes Lab and Pathology Profession

WE ARE ENTERING THE SEVENTH MONTH OF THE SARS-COV-2 OUTBREAK and some public health authorities predict that new cases of COVID-19 will continue through the fall and into 2021. If true, this will not be auspicious for the nation’s clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups.

The current clinical and business model of clinical laboratory and anatomic pathology operations is designed to serve a fee-for-service system where patients generally travel to their local physician’s office or hospital for exams and treatment. In this system, lab specimens can easily and quickly be collected while the patient is in the hospital, the doctor’s office, or a nearby patient service center.

But as more physicians and patients respond to the COVID-19 outbreak by adopting virtual office visits, labs will need to be inventive and create new ways to obtain lab test specimens from patients who do not physically show up in doctors’ offices, but instead are seen via some form of telehealth service.

Similarly, if “hospital in the home” programs become more common as a way to avoid the need for an infected patient to travel to an emergency room or be admitted to a hospital, then labs will need an economical way to collect specimens from those home-bound patients.

The adoption of telehealth and virtual office visits is another element of change. Health systems, such as Banner Health in Arizona, are using chat bots to engage patients in novel ways. Because of ongoing technological advances, artificial intelligence solutions are demonstrating value in healthcare in different ways, including the diagnosis of digital pathology images.

These are just a few fundamental ways that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is pushing change on this nation’s healthcare system. Each month that the pandemic continues, the process of change will continue and become more entrenched. For example, the greater the number of patients and physicians who become comfortable with virtual office visits, the more likely it is that they will continue to utilize this service once the pandemic subsides.

These pandemic-induced changes to current clinical and business models of clinical lab and pathology operations will be a major theme of our virtual Executive War College. The first sessions take place this week. You can review details and register by visiting



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