“May 17, 2004 Intelligence: Late Breaking Lab News”

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Oncology is predicted to be a major driver in laboratory testing in coming years (see TDR, March 15, 2004). That said, lung cancer may be the next high-profile target, joining breast and prostate cancers as a high-priority disease. Last month the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that lung cancer rates among women have soared. It now kills 20,000 women per year, more than the combined deaths from breast and ovarian cancer.

MORE ON: Oncology

Maybe Thomas A. Scully shares the view that there is a bright future for companies offering diagnostic and clinical services in oncology. Since leaving his position as Administrator of the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS), he has become a Senior Advisor for Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe, the private equity firm. Welsh Carson owns Ameripath, Inc., holds equity in LabOne, Inc., and just paid $1.15 billion to take U.S. Oncology, Inc. private.

MEDICAL ILLITERACY AFFECTS 90 MILLION AMERICAN ADULTS

Direct access testing (DAT) has an interesting hurdle to overcome on its way to becoming a bigger phenomenon. Earlier this month, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report stating that 90 million Americans are “medically illiterate.” This is about half the adult population. Medical illiteracy contributes to misunderstandings between physicians and their patients that often leads to bad consequences and poor healthcare outcomes. The IOM’s findings were confirmed by a separate study released last week by the Harvard School of Public Health and Educational Testing Services. In this study, researchers concluded that communication barriers sustain and increase disparities in healthcare within the United States.

ADD TO: Medical Illiteracy

New medical technology actually increases the illiteracy gap between physicians and patients. “This is not something for which you can be immunized,” stated researcher Dr. David A. Kindig. The studies noted that medical illiteracy was not limited to people with poor English, lower incomes, and little education. New healthcare technology can suddenly make esoteric scientific concepts into commonplace medical terminology, challenging even college graduates who want to keep up. Laboratories and pathology group practices providing information and services directly to patients should keep in mind that medical illiteracy affects half the nation’s adults. For that reason, it is recommended that all laboratory test reports and information offered to consumers should be written in simple language and should be easy to understand.

  • Clients of THE DARK REPORT may want to check out the May 10, 2004 issue of Forbes Magazine. Laboratory Corporation of America Chairman and CEO Thomas P. Mac Mahon earned a mention as one of seven “best bosses.” Over the past six years, he’s averaged a salary of $6 million per year while delivering an annualized return of 42% to LabCorp’s shareholders.

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