IT WAS JUST 15 MONTHS AGO WHEN THE DARK REPORT made this bold prediction: “By December 31, 2001, every physician’s office in the United States which generates a high volume of laboratory testing will be using a Web-based system for ordering lab tests, receiving results, and accessing a patient’s complete lab test history.”
When this prediction was issued in the November 1, 1999 issue, there was a surprising amount of agreement among informatics vendors and lab administrators. The lab industry recognized that e-health technology was moving rapidly into the clinical marketplace. A sizable cadre of laboratories began active discussions with vendors to acquire and implement systems to enable Web-accessed lab test ordering and results reporting for their physicians’ office clients. They were inspired by—or fearful because—some of the nation’s largest laboratories had announced contracts to implement this service.
With all this interest, the surprising development in 2000 was that Web-accessed lab test ordering took a back seat to Web-accessed test results reporting. To tell this story, we’ve prepared a detailed intelligence briefing. As you will read in the following pages, the economics behind replacing teleprinters and dedicated phone lines in docs’ offices with a Web browser remain compelling. But the business strategies to accomplish this task have shifted in favor of beginning with lab test results reporting.
Meanwhile, other players in the healthcare world have been busy connecting hospitals, laboratories, physicians, and payers with Internet- enabled systems that communicate clinical information, including lab test orders and results. At this year’s Executive War College in May, there will be presentations on the Winona Project in Minnesota and Health Bridge in Cincinnati. These are community-wide programs that interpose a third party between the laboratory and its referring physician. This development is both a threat and opportunity for labs. It is also undeniable evidence that physicians are going to be wired into the Internet sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, lab test results ordering/reporting via the Internet is in the first stages of exponential expansion. The limited number of labs currently offering either Web-accessed lab test ordering or results reporting will grow rapidly with each passing month. The clinical benefits and economic advantages of Internet-based lab information services makes this inevitable.