The nation’s healthcare system continues to be buffeted by enormous change, including implementation of The Affordable Care Act, the rise of new healthcare delivery models such as the Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) and Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), fewer regulated tests, and fewer qualified lab workers. Also trending, is the rise of the “bedless” hospital and other community-based health care facilities, which also impact laboratory processes and operating procedures.
These evolving patient care models are in direct response to healthcare reform, in which providers are being rewarded for not only keeping patients healthy, but also for reining in costs and improving overall quality. In hospital and other settings, emphasizing outpatient work over an inpatient approach is the inevitable result of this new reality.
Lab medicine will play a central role in these bedless and other community-based models, as 70 percent of diagnostic decisions result from work done in laboratories. But, at the same time, “laboratories can add logical structure, support efficient workflow, and promote patient care and safety through the process,” according to a January 7, 2013 article in Advance for Administrators of the Laboratory entitled “Laboratory, Outreach & the ACO Model.”
Labs also add value “by offering advanced core technologies within the lab, integrating lab information across the continuum of care, and anticipating patient needs and access to care,” the Advance article points out. “The Laboratory Information System (LIS) is often the accumulator of this information, while also providing valuable information about test utilization and other metrics to illuminate opportunities for cost savings.”
Other strategies which labs can utilize to demonstrate their value in new patient care models include the following, according to ARUP Laboratories, a major national reference laboratory:
- Develop outreach by extending lab services outside the four walls of the lab.
- Build electronic connectivity solutions to providers in a way that integrates data in and out of physician practice EMRs.
- Promote lean internal laboratory processes.
- Develop utilization management tools.
- Understand the laboratory’s role in the big picture.
Healthcare, and labs in particular, are facing swift and broad changes that impact the delivery of care. The medical laboratories and pathology groups that succeed in the coming cycle of proactive healthcare will be those that develop innovative ways to add value to the swiftly evolving models of integrated clinical care.
Credits: COLA, Dark Daily, ARUP Laboratories