Do Regional Laboratories Have A Bright Future?

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IF INTEGRATED INFORMATICS CAPABILITIES will be a major point of differentiation among competing laboratories in the future, then several warning flags have recently appeared in the laboratory industry. Regional laboratories and hospital lab outreach programs should take notice.

One warning flag is the recent announcement by Laboratory Corporation of America that “eLabCorp,” a Web-connectivity system is ready for market. According to LabCorp, the system is more than a lab test ordering/lab test resulting product. It also “integrates easily with a wide variety of existing electronic medical record and practice management systems, allowing doctors to access the Web for testing services without changing the computer services they use for the rest of their practice needs.”

Another warning flag is a deal just disclosed by Quest Diagnostics Incorporated in early September that calls for North Texas Specialty Physicians of Fort Worth, Texas, an IPA with 600 physicians, to use Quest Diagnostics’ “Care360” physician portal. It is a Web-enabled system that “enables doctors to order diagnostic tests and review laboratory tests online; prescribe medication at the point of care; view clinical and administrative information from multiple sources; file documents received electronically or in hard copy into a health record; and share confidential patient information with medical colleagues in a manner that is consistent with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Account- ability Act) privacy and security requirements.”

A third warning flag is the success of Bio-Reference Laboratories, Inc. (BRLI) at using enhanced informatics capabilities to build its regional laboratory business and develop high-value lab testing niches. (See pages 9-15.) BRLI may be further along in the development of a multi-function informatics system than any laboratory in the world, at this moment.

The themes of these three warning flags could not be clearer. To gain competitive advantage, three of the nation’s largest lab companies are investing heavily in information technologies. They all have the same goal: to make it easier and simpler for physicians to order lab tests, access test results, and integrate laboratory information in their electronic medical record systems. Regional labs should take heed and develop their own integrated informatics solution, in conjunction with local health systems.


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