When Should Labs Become ‘Patient-centric?’

AS THE AMERICAN HEALTHCARE SYSTEM MOVES FORWARD with its transformation, several trends make it advisable that clinical labs and pathology groups consider the importance of becoming “patient-centric.”

First, patients are being incentivized to become price shoppers and select their providers—including laboratories—on the basis of price and quality.

Second, more patients have insurance with high deductibles and substantial out-of-pocket requirements. This means that all providers—including laboratories—must be able to collect this money directly from the patient.

Third, in an integrated care environment, like an accountable care organization, every provider—including laboratories—must be able to identify and track individual patients as they receive healthcare services at various sites.

The three trends listed above are just for starters. My point is that our healthcare system is in the midst of a transition that makes it essential that a provider can accurately identify an individual patient, then deliver personalized care services that are tailored expressly to the needs of that patient. Accurate patient identification in real time is also essential if the provider is to collect payment from the patient at the time of service.

To date, only a small number of laboratory organizations have made the substantial investment required to create an enterprise-wide master patient index (EMPI). Even fewer labs have then added the additional informatics capabilities needed to deliver patient-centric services in real time.

Credit should be given to Pathology Associates Medical Laboratories (PAML) in Spokane, Washington, and Sonora Quest Laboratories (SQL) in Phoenix, Arizona. Each lab was among the first in the nation to put both an EMPI and supporting informatics services into place. Today, each lab has millions of patients in their respective EMPIs, along with hundreds of millions of lab test results for these same patients.

We interviewed the CIO of SQL about his lab’s EMPI. You will find it enlightening as to how changes in clinical care are making it essential that a lab not just track requisitions by the ordering physician (a physician-centric service), but also by the individual patient. His insights will help you understand why an EMPI for your own lab makes it easier to deliver more value.


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