CEO SUMMARY: It’s another roller coaster ride for clinical laboratories and pathology practices. Within 24 months, virtually all physician offices will be using web-based technology to order lab tests and receive test results. Web-based ordering/reporting of laboratory testing will drive the organizational form of laboratories and pathology groups throughout the upcoming decade.
IF LABORATORY CONSOLIDATION was the big story of the 1990s, then laboratory information enhancement will be the dominant theme during the first decade of the 21st century.
THE DARK REPORT makes a startling and absolute prediction: within 24 months, every physician 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.
By December 31, 2001, it will be difficult to find any physician office continuing to use paper test requisitions for ordering lab work and a line printer for receiving lab test results. Web-based test ordering/reporting will sweep the clinical laboratory industry.
Obviously, this has major ramifications for the competitive position of individual commercial labs and hospital laboratory outreach programs. During the next 24 months, those labs first into their local market with effective web-based test ordering/reporting systems will have a competitive advantage.
Further, clinical laboratories which are early adopters of this new way to communicate with physician offices will probably find themselves with a competitive advantage. They will find it easier to enlarge market share even while protecting existing clients from competitors.
Our confidence in this prediction is absolute. Nothing can stop this transformation from occurring—and it will take only 24 months to sweep through the commercial laboratory industry. In so doing, this will be the swiftest technology revolution ever to hit the clinical laboratory industry.
THE DARK REPORT recommends that laboratory executives and pathologists devote immediate and full attention to this subject! On a priority basis, every clinical laboratory and pathology group practice serving physician offices should create a business strategy that responds and incorporates this web- based technology into its business and operational plan.
Because this whole transformation will occur in only 24 months, no responsible lab executive can ignore, nor delay, his laboratory’s response. And, although the primary emphasis will be on clinical lab testing, anatomic pathology will find itself driven on a comparable implementation curve.
To aid our clients and regular readers, THE DARK REPORT intends to provide intensive coverage to this topic in coming months. There is no other single aspect of laboratory management which approaches the impact of web-based lab test ordering/reporting.
Asleep At The Switch
Yet, it seems that most of the lab industry is asleep at the switch. To our knowledge, this article in this issue of THE DARK REPORT is the first public recognition that the clinical lab industry is about to plunge into a revolutionary change in how labs communicate with physicians’ offices. Only a handful of laboratory executives, early adopters themselves, appreciate the full implications of this impending transformation.
Even as information links between labs and physician offices move to a web-based infrastructure, similar changes will be happening between hospitals and their reference laboratories.
Within this segment of the laboratory industry, the signals are less clear. Reference laboratories already have a variety of ways to directly connect with their hospital laboratory clients.
Also, the information system needs of hospitals are more complicated than those of physician offices. With the typical physician office setting, there is probably one practice administration software system. This is not true of a hospital laboratory, which utilizes a relatively complex LIS software program that must interface with a variety of other IS programs used within the hospital or integrated delivery network (IDN).
For these reasons, THE DARK REPORT believes it will take more than 24 months for hospital laboratories to fully migrate onto a web-based solution for communicating with its users and reference laboratories.
However, it won’t take much longer than 24 months. THE DARK REPORT predicts that web-based lab test ordering and reporting will also become the communications standard between reference labs and their hospital lab clients.
This entire issue of THE DARK REPORT is devoted to the subject of web-based lab ordering and reporting. Clients and readers will learn about the market forces pushing this development and gain a first look at the major companies offering web-based products to laboratories.
Because it is important to understand the business drivers creating this change, THE DARK REPORT is also providing insightful interviews from two executive leaders involved in web-based technology. (See related articles here and here.)
It is crucial that laboratory executives and pathologists gain an accurate perspective about this trend. Web-based laboratory information systems will drive the organizational design of clinical laboratories throughout the next decade.