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DARK Daily Laboratory and Pathology News

DARK Daily is an e-briefing service providing up-to-the minute news of relevance for anyone working in diagnostic medicine, from clinical laboratories and pathology groups to lab industry suppliers and diagnostic technology companies. DARK Daily is part of The Dark Intelligence Group, Inc. and is dedicated to bringing useful business and management intelligence to laboratory managers, pathologists and diagnostic executives. Our recognized expertise in the strategic direction of laboratory medicine and the management of laboratories is available through DARK Daily, The Dark Report, free White Papers, Lab Resource Directory, the Executive War College on Laboratory and Pathology Management, Lab Quality Confab, and strategic consulting services.

Latest E-Briefings

More Providers and Payers Use Bundled Pricing to Serve Patients with High Deductibles in a Trend That Has Financial Implications for Clinical Laboratories

This phenomenon is a response to the tens of millions of patients who now have high deductibles that must be met before their insurance kicks in

There’s a new wrinkle on bundled pricing for medical laboratory tests and other healthcare services. Some providers and payers are creating bundled pricing options specifically for the tens of millions of patients now covered by high-deductible health plans (HDHPs).

Patients covered by HDHPs are responsible to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket before their health insurance kicks in. Thus, it should not surprise clinical laboratory professionals that providers and health insurers are collaborating to created bundled pricing (AKA packaged pricing) options that cater to self-pay patients.

Bundling is a method in which healthcare services are grouped together for one pre-determined price. It is intended to decrease costs while providing patients with increased access to high-quality care. Clinical labs and pathology groups will need to negotiate with the organizers of these bundled medical services in order to get adequate payment for their testing services.

Bundled service options are gaining in popularity because more Americans are paying out-of-pocket for medical care. Some people have no health insurance coverage at all. Meanwhile, tens of millions of Americans are enrolled in high-deductible health plans. These patients are typically responsible for paying thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses before their health insurance begins paying for medical services. With so many people seeking more economical choices for their healthcare needs, providers, hospitals, and health insurers are exploring the options bundled pricing offers. continue reading

Research Study at Johns Hopkins University Reveals CDC Does Not Record Medical Errors in Annual Mortality Report, Yet Such Errors Are Third Leading Cause of Death

An earlier Johns Hopkins study looked at diagnostic errors and determined that such errors were the leading cause of malpractice payouts. Can clinical laboratories help?

At a time of heightened transparency in healthcare outcomes, a Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (Johns Hopkins) study makes a startling conclusion: medical errors are an under-recognized cause of patients’ deaths in the United States. In fact, medical errors rank third—after heart disease and cancer—in causing patients’ deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins statement.

This finding has many implications for pathologists and clinical laboratory managers. Often, medical errors are associated with the failure of physicians to order correct medical laboratory tests at critical junctures. Alternatively, a medical error can result if the physician fails to take appropriate action after getting an accurate lab test result. Thus, any effort within the health system to reduce medical errors will probably bring pathologists and medical laboratory scientists into closer consultation with clinicians.

What the researchers at Johns Hopkins also learned during their study is that medical error is not reported as a cause of death on death certificates. Further, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has no “medical error” category in its annual report on deaths and mortality, The New York Times (NYT) reported. continue reading

Medicare Moves Forward with Bundled Payment Reimbursement as Part of a Trend That Has Major Ramifications for Clinical Pathology Laboratories

Pathologists and clinical laboratory managers can expect that CMS will accelerate the shift from fee-for-service reimbursements to bundled payment models

It is still not widely recognized among clinical laboratory managers and pathologists that Medicare program officials are serious about moving forward to replace fee-for-service provider payment with value-based payment methods. In fact, many medical lab professionals may not have heard the news from earlier this year that one-third of Medicare payments are now value-based.

It is important for all clinical lab executives to be aware of the press release issued by the federal Department of Health and Human Services on January 26, 2015. It was the first time that the Medicare program had published goals for moving away from fee-for-service that were tied into specific dates. continue reading

When Screening for Esophageal and Gastrointestinal Cancer, Rice University’s Low-Cost Microendoscope Could Reduce Need to Send Biopsies to Pathologists

This low-cost solution opens new doors for low-resource regions and, in many cases, allows operators to rule out malignancy without the need for a pathologist to review biopsies

Rapid development of endoscopic technologies is bringing medical professionals closer to point-of-care pathology than ever before. The goal is to allow physicians to identify diseased or cancerous tissue in situ and reduce or eliminate the need to biopsy tissue for examination by surgical pathologists.

Researchers at Rice University in Houston are developing a high-resolution microendoscope (HRME) that offers the ability to view tissue at a subcellular level. This fiber optic probe would reduce the need to collect the biopsy that is typically sent to anatomic pathologists for analysis.

Measuring 1-mm in diameter, the probe works using the existing accessory channel of the endoscope. Touching it to the surface of the tissue provides real-time in vivo images to the technician at up to 12 frames per second on an accompanying tablet display. Images are enhanced using visual overlays and an algorithm that highlights the nuclei of cells within the field of view. The HRME system is battery powered and fits in a briefcase for easy transport. continue reading

New Study Indicates Shopping Tools Alone Might Not Lower Medical Spending, Even Though More Patients Want to Know Prices for Clinical Laboratory Tests and Other Procedures

JAMA study finds that most workers with access to web-based price comparison tools did not use them, nor did they spend less on medical care than other workers

Can shopping tools designed to help patients compare providers (including medical laboratories), quality, and prices, make a contribution to reducing the increase in healthcare costs? A new study suggests that such shopping tools make only modest contributions to controlling the cost of care.

Published May 3 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the study found that only 10% of the 150,000 employees at two large companies offering web-based transparency tools logged on to compare healthcare costs during the calendar year. In addition, providing workers with the ability to shop for healthcare services did not bring down employees’ average outpatient spending. Instead, employees with access to transparency tools spent slightly more than workers who could not price shop.

“Our findings temper the enthusiasm around the idea that price transparency is some sort of panacea … that price transparency alone, coupled with high deductible health plans, are going to lead to reduced spending,” stated Sunita Desai, PhD, a Seidman Fellow in Healthcare Policy at Harvard Medical School who led the study. She was quoted in a Washington Post article. continue reading

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