Sessions at this annual medical laboratory conference demonstrated that lab outreach continues to be a productive clinical and business line at numerous hospitals and IDNs
Sept. 26-Chicago: During the past 24 months, there have been multiple news stories announcing that different hospitals or integrated delivery networks (IDNs) had signed agreements to sell their clinical laboratory outreach businesses to one of the two multi-billion-dollar commercial lab corporations. Some Wall Street analysts have taken these lab outreach acquisitions as a sign that hospitals are struggling to compete in the outreach laboratory marketplace. They predict that the big commercial labs will continue to scoop up hospital laboratory outreach businesses at a brisk pace.
However, this may be an example of popular wisdom not reflecting the true state of the outpatient/outreach market for clinical laboratory testing services. Evidence of the contrary view—that many hospitals and IDNs have flourishing lab outreach programs—was in plain view last week here in the Windy City.
Last Tuesday and Wednesday, Mayo Clinic Laboratories presented its 33rd annual “Leveraging the Laboratory: Dimensions of Outreach” conference at the Intercontinental Hotel on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. It was a sold-out event with about 150 attendees. Organizers said this was the largest attendance at this lab outreach meeting in the past 10 years.
During last week’s “Leveraging the Laboratory” outreach conference in Chicago, produced by Mayo Clinic Laboratories, the individuals pictured above each presented different aspects of success in operating an effective hospital clinical laboratory outreach program. Front row top to bottom they are Henry Givray, Leadership’s Calling; Brianne Newton, Mayo Clinic Laboratories; Nilesh Kachalia, Yuma Medical Center; Trudie Milner, PhD, Yuma Regional Medical Center. And rear row top to bottom: Robert Michel, The Dark Report; Tony Bull, Medical University of South Carolina; Nicholas Rambow, Corewell Health; Jane Hermansen, Mayo Clinic Laboratories; Ellen Dijkman Dulkes, Mayo Clinic Laboratories. (Photo copyright: The Dark Report.)
Optimism was High at Mayo’s Lab Outreach Conference
Throughout the two days of the conference, there was enthusiasm for the viability of hospital laboratory outreach programs. There was also optimism that these local and regional outreach businesses will continue to be profitable and can support better patient care. Had any of the Wall Street analysts been in attendance, they would have heard the other side of the coin about the profitability and viability of hospital laboratory outreach programs—a story documented by the presentations of different hospital and IDNs that operate flourishing lab outreach programs.
“What makes this meeting unique is that it is the longest-running and biggest conference devoted to best practices in hospital and health system laboratory outreach programs,” said Jane Hermansen, Manager, Outreach and Network Development at Mayo Clinic Laboratories. “There are signs that increased integration within multi-hospital health systems requires a common lab test menu with consistent methodologies and reference ranges.
“During the conference, we heard many participants describe one part of their lab testing services to office-based physicians as ‘inreach’ when it involves employed providers of the parent health system,” she continued. “This is evidence that health system administration recognizes the value of a full longitudinal lab test record for their patients—whether from inpatient, inreach, or outreach testing.
“As well, this year’s exceptionally large attendance shows that hospital-based labs across the United States are forging ahead with their lab outreach services in ways that generate many benefits,” Hermansen noted. “The most important is to help physicians deliver better care to patients. At the same time, the added test volumes from a productive hospital laboratory outreach program improves the productivity of the laboratory while generating much needed income that helps that lab’s parent organization.”
Day one of this two-day event featured presentations about successful hospital laboratory outreach programs. Speakers included:
- Trudie F. Milner, PhD, SVP/COO, and Neal Kachalia, MT(ASCP), Administrative Director of Yuma’s laboratory, Yuma Regional Medical Center, Yuma, Arizona.
- Tony Bull, System Administrative Officer, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina.
- Nick Rambow, Director of Laboratory Services, Corewell Health Labs, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Day two was organized around hands-on workshops that addressed the management, operational, financial, and sales/marketing elements that make up a growing, dynamic hospital laboratory outreach business. Attendees were fully engaged in these sessions as they learned best practices. Innovations and clever approaches to increasing physician and patient satisfaction were shared during peer-to-peer exchanges.
Local Clinical Laboratories Serving their Communities
Hospital laboratories are uniquely positioned to deliver value to the physicians and other providers in the towns and regions they served. The obvious benefit is that the lab, its employees, and its clinical pathologists all live in the community. They have professional relationships that may go back decades with the physicians who order medical laboratory tests for their patients.
These local hospital labs can report many test results on the same day that they get the specimens from the doctors’ offices. Another benefit for those physicians and patients is that when a hospital lab performs all the tests originated in inpatient, outreach, and outpatient settings, it has a full longitudinal record of a patient’s lab test results, which often covers years of testing. This is important when patients show up in specialists’ offices or hospital emergency departments. Physicians in these settings can see all of the patient’s lab test history, and the tests are performed with the same methodology and have the same reference ranges.
Ways to Differentiate Hospital Laboratory Outreach Services
Hospital and health system laboratory outreach programs have multiple ways to differentiate their lab testing services. During his presentation, Tony Bull, System Administrative Officer, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina, provided the following list of different benefits that a lab outreach program can offer to local physicians, patients, and consumers:
- Ease of access
- Patient experience
- Payer contracts
- Customer service
- Marketing and sales
- Physician perception
One point of competitive advantage the speakers emphasized was the outreach laboratory’s access to lab test data. When lab data is combined with patient demographics and other sets of data, an outreach laboratory can develop clinically actionable intelligence that helps physicians and health insurers improve patient care, while lowering the total cost of care. When packaged correctly, these enriched data offerings can generate a new source of revenue for lab outreach programs.
Given the tough finances experienced by health systems and hospitals across the United States in recent years, it’s notable that the attendees at Mayo Clinic Laboratories’ “Leveraging the Laboratory” conference reported positive growth and profitable results from their laboratory outreach programs.
That’s solid evidence that there continues to be an opportunity for pathologists and clinical laboratory leaders of IDNs to ramp up their laboratory outreach businesses to win new client-physicians and produce additional cash flow for their labs.