STEP BY STEP, HEALTHCARE IN THE UNITED STATES is moving toward a system in which clinical care is fully integrated and providers are reimbursed for the value they provide. This trend presents clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups with a challenge and an opportunity.
The challenge comes because being a value-added contributor requires labs to adopt a new mindset and working culture. To be successful, labs will need to move beyond the common goal of simply reporting an accurate test result within a set time. Failure to evolve beyond this basic form of lab test services will result in shrinking revenue and smaller budgets as funds are redirected to labs that add value.
The opportunity for labs is to be at the forefront of supporting the health system’s newest needs. To meet these needs, lab professionals must get out of their labs to collaborate with clinicians. Such collaborations will help physicians use lab tests more efficiently, become more effective at using lab test results to select the most appropriate therapies, and to monitor each patient’s progress. Innovative labs will offer services that support physicians in delivering care that is proactive rather than reactive and that allows health systems to integrate all care to support value-added payments.
You will read about an ambitious lab regionalization project in Michigan. For this project, lab managers for Ascension’s seven organizations, 14 hospitals, and 18 laboratories throughout the state are working to standardize instruments, assays, test menus, reference ranges, and work practices at every site where lab testing is performed. Obvious goals are to increase productivity, reduce lab costs, and improve quality. Of equal significance in this statewide lab initiative is a goal to align lab services to meet the needs of physicians and patients. Thus, a standardized test menu and methodology, with consistent reference ranges, will help Ascension’s physicians and other providers to serve individual patients, no matter where in the health system they show up for care.
The lab division at Ascension Michigan is taking steps to standardize lab test services in ways that allow it to serve the strategic and clinical goals of Ascension. This project is an early example of how hospital labs can remake themselves to be essential diagnostic assets as their parent institutions take the steps necessary to integrate care and become added-value providers.