Keynote speakers advise clinical laboratory leaders to leverage diagnostic data that feeds precision therapies
At this week’s Executive War College on Diagnostics, Clinical Laboratory, and Pathology Management in New Orleans, keynote presenters dissected ways that clinical laboratory leaders and anatomic pathologists can contribute to innovative treatment approaches, including wearable technology and precision medicine.
The speakers also noted that labs must learn to work collaboratively with payers—perhaps through health information technology (HIT)—to establish best practices that improve reimbursements on claims for novel genetic tests.
Harnessing the ever-increasing volume of diagnostic data that genetic testing produces should be a high priority for labs, said William Morice II, MD, PhD, CEO and President of Mayo Clinic Laboratories.
“There will be an increased focus on getting information within the laboratory … for areas such as genomics and proteomics,” Morice told the keynote audience at the Executive War College on Wednesday.
“Wearable technology data is analyzed using machine learning. Clinical laboratories must participate in analyzing that spectrum of diagnostics,” said William Morice II, MD, PhD (above), CEO and President of Mayo Clinic Laboratories. Morice spoke during this week’s Executive War College.
Precision Medicine Efforts Include Genetic Testing and Wearable Devices
For laboratories new to genetic testing that want to move it in-house, Morice outlined effective first steps to take, including the following:
- Determine and then analyze the volume of genetic testing that a lab is sending out.
- Research and evaluate genetic sequencing platforms that are on the market, with an eye towards affordable cloud-based options.
- Build a business case to conduct genetic tests in-house that focuses on the long-term value to patients and how that could also improve revenue.
Morice suggested that neuroimmunology is a reasonable place to start with genetic testing. Mayo Clinic Laboratories found early success with tests in this area because autoimmune disorders are rising among patients.
A related area for clinical laboratories and pathology practices to explore is their role in how clinicians treat patients using wearable technology.
For example, according to Morice, Mayo Clinic has monitored 20,000 cardiac patients with wearable devices. The data from the wearable devices—which includes diagnostic information—is analyzed using machine learning, a subset of artificial intelligence.
In one study published in Scientific Reports, scientists from Mayo’s Departments of Neurology and Biomedical Engineering found “clear evidence that direct seizure forecasts are possible using wearable devices in the ambulatory setting for many patients with epilepsy.”
Clinical laboratories fit into this picture, Morice explained. For example, depending on what data it provides, a wearable device on a patient with worsening neurological symptoms could trigger a lab test for Alzheimer’s disease or other neurological disorders.
“This will change how labs think about access to care,” he noted.
For Payers, Navigating Genetic Testing Claims is Difficult
While there is promise in genetic testing and precision medicine, from an administrative viewpoint, these activities can be challenging for payers when it comes to verifying reimbursement claims.
“One of the biggest challenges we face is determining what test is being ordered. From the perspective of the reimbursement process, it’s not always clear,” said Cristi Radford, MS, CGC, Product Director at healthcare services provider Optum, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, located in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Radford also presented a keynote at this year’s Executive War College.
Approximately 400 Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes are in place to represent the estimated 175,000 genetic tests on the market, Radford noted. That creates a dilemma for labs and payers in assigning codes to novel genetic tests.
During her keynote address, Radford showed the audience of laboratory executives a slide that charted how four labs submitted claims for the same high-risk breast cancer panel. CPT code choices varied greatly.
“Does the payer have any idea which test was ordered? No,” she said. “It was a genetic panel, but the information doesn’t give us the specificity payers need.”
In such situations, payers resort to prior authorization to halt these types of claims on the front end so that more diagnostic information can be provided.
“Plans don’t like prior authorization, but it’s a necessary evil,” said Jason Bush, PhD, Executive Vice President of Product at Avalon Healthcare Solutions in Tampa, Florida. Bush co-presented with Radford.
[Editor’s note: Dark Daily offers a free webinar, “Learning from Payer Behavior to Increase Appeal Success,” that teaches labs how to better understand payer behavior. The webinar features recent trends in denials and appeals by payers that will help diagnostic organizations maximize their appeal success. Click here to stream this important webinar.]
Payers Struggle with ‘Explosion’ of Genetic Tests
In “UnitedHealth’s Optum to Offer Lab Test Management,” Dark Daily’s sister publication The Dark Report, covered Optum’s announcement that it had launched “a comprehensive laboratory benefit management solution designed to help health plans reduce unnecessary lab testing and ensure their members receive appropriate, high-quality tests.”
Optum sells this laboratory benefit management program to other health plans and self-insured employers. Genetic test management capabilities are part of that offering.
As part of its lab management benefit program, Optum is collaborating with Avalon on a new platform for genetic testing that will launch soon and focus on identifying test quality, streamlining prior authorization, and providing test payment accuracy in advance.
“Payers are struggling with the explosion in genetic testing,” Bush told Executive War College attendees. “They are truly not trying to hinder innovation.”
For clinical laboratory leaders reading this ebriefing, the takeaway is twofold: Genetic testing and resulting precision medicine efforts provide hope in more effectively treating patients. At the same time, the genetic test juggernaut has grown so large so quickly payers are finding it difficult to manage. Thus, it has become a source of continuous challenge for labs seeking reimbursements.
Heath information technology may help ease the situation. But, ultimately, stronger communication between labs and payers—including acknowledgement of what each side needs from a business perspective—is paramount.