“December 13, 2004 Intelligence: Late Breaking Lab News”

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THE DARK REPORT once again was first with timely intelligence. This time we scooped Business Week and other national business sources with our analysis of the impending arrival of HPV vaccines—presented in our November 22, 2004 issue. Business Week published their HPV vaccine story a full week later, on November 29, 2004. Several readers alerted us to the fact that our HPV coverage not only scooped most of the business press, but also provided a more cogent analysis of how HPV vaccines will change the clinical landscape.

LABCORP & CHIRON IN HCV PATENT FIGHT

Laboratory Corporation of America and Chiron Corp. signed an agreement earlier this month which resolves a patent dispute. Chiron had claimed LabCorp was violating certain of its patents involving the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Chiron was first to clone the virus in 1987 and identify it as a cause of liver disease. The agreement extends non-exclusive rights to Lab- Corp. to use Chiron’s technology in blood screening tests.

MORE PHYSICIANS GET PAID FOR E-MAIL CONSULTATIONS

Here’s an update to an intelligence item we published last year. Blue Cross/ Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BC/BS) is expanding its “Internet-based” office visit program. Primary care physicians in three Massachusetts health systems will be reimbursed for Internet-based consultations with patients. When this pilot program started in March 2003, it included 185 physicians. After this expansion, more than 500 physicians will be included. When a participating physician con- ducts an Internet-based consultation that meets BC/BS guidelines, he/she is reimbursed $19 and the patient makes a $5 copayment.

ADD TO: E-mail Consults

BC/BS of Massachusetts finds e-mail consults to be effective. That is why it is expanding the program. One physician willing to make Internet-based consultations says he averages about 10 hits per day, but there are only one or two e-mails per day for which he charges a consultation fee. Both BC/BS and the physicians have learned that email consults are effective in serving patients who travel or snowbirds who spend the entire winter far from Massachusetts. BC/BS’s willingness to expand this program is a sign to lab managers and pathologists that growing numbers of patients—and their physicians—are willing to conduct healthcare business on the Internet.

PAY-FOR-PERFORMANCE

Will pay-for-performance soon be available for pathologists? The number of financial incentive programs is increasing nationally. The Leapfrog Group lists 86 pay-for-performance programs on its Web site. At the request of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), early next year the National Quality Forum (NQF) will conduct a workshop in Washington, DC to begin developing benchmarking baselines. The goal is to properly align outcome measurements with performance incentives for physicians.

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