Clinical laboratory leaders interested in positioning their labs to be paid for added-value services will get knowledge, insights, and more at upcoming third annual Clinical Lab 2.0 Workshop in November

It’s a critical time for medical laboratories. Healthcare is transitioning from a fee-for-service payment system to new value-based payment models, creating disruption and instability in the clinical lab test market. In addition, payers are cutting reimbursement for many lab tests.

These are among the market factors leading some pathologists and clinical lab leaders to seek new or alternative sources of revenue to keep the lights on and the machines running in their laboratories. Some might say, it’s a dark time for the lab industry.

However, in an exclusive interview with Dark Daily, Khosrow Shotorbani, President and Executive Director of the Project Santa Fe Foundation (PSFF) and founder of the Clinical 2.0 movement, said clinical laboratories should not fear the future. 

“This is not the time to be shy or timid,” he declared. “The quantitative value of medical laboratory domain is significant and will be lost if not exploited or leveraged.”

Shotorbani has reason to be positive. In recent years the Project Santa Fe Foundation (PSFF) has emerged to advocate for, and teach, the Clinical Lab 2.0 model. Clinical Lab 2.0 is an approach which focuses on longitudinal clinical laboratory data to augment population health in new payment arrangements.

Earlier this year, PSFF filed for 501(c) status, according to a news release. It is now positioned as a nonprofit organization, guided by a board of directors whose mission is “to create a disruptive value paradigm and alternative payment model that defines placement of diagnostic services in healthcare.”

Progressing Toward Clinical Lab 2.0

At the 24th Annual Executive War College on Lab and Pathology Management held in New Orleans last May, the nation’s first ever Clinical Lab 2.0 “Shark Tank” competition was won by Aspenti Health, a full-service diagnostic laboratory specializing in toxicology screening.

“This project, as well as all of the other cases that were presented, were quite strong and all were aligned with the mission of the Clinical Lab 2.0 movement,” said Shotorbani, in a news release. “This movement transforms the analytic results from a laboratory into actionable intelligence at the patient visit in partnership with front-liners and clinicians—allowing for identification of patient risks—and arming providers with insights to guide therapeutic interventions.

“Further, it reduces the administrative burden on providers by collecting SDH [social determinants of health] predictors in advance and tying them to outcomes of interest,” he continued. “By bringing SDH predictors to the office visit, it enables providers to engage in SDH without relying on their own data collection—a current care gap in many practices. The lab becomes a catalyst helping to manage the population we serve.”

Aspenti Health’s Shark Tank entry, “Integration of the Clinical Laboratory and Social Determinants of Health in the Management of Substance Use,” focused on the social factors tied to the co-use of opioids and benzodiazepines, a combination that puts patients at higher risk of drug-related overdose or death.

The project revealed that the top-two predictors of co-use were the prescribing provider practice and the patient’s age.

“They did an interesting thing—what clinical laboratories alone cannot do—the predictive value of lab test data mapped by zip code for patients admitted in partnership with social determinants of health. This helps to create delivery models to potentially help prevent opioid overdose,” said Shotorbani, who sees economic implications for chronic conditions.

“If clinical laboratories have that ability to do that in acute conditions such as opioid overdose, what is our opportunity to use lab test data in chronic conditions, such as diabetes? The cost of healthcare is in chronic conditions, and that is where clinical lab data has an essential role—to support early detection and early prevention,” he added.

“This is often described as the transition from volume to value because this trend will fundamentally change how all clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups are paid,” said Khosrow Shotorbani (above), MBA, MT(ASCP), Executive Director of the Project Santa Fe Foundation (PSFF), during his presentation at the 22nd annual Executive War College in New Orleans. “This shift from volume to value also will create new winners and losers in the clinical lab industry,” he declared. “Not every lab organization will take the timely action required to introduce the value-based laboratory testing services that hospitals, physicians, and payers will need. (Photo copyright: Albuquerque Business First.)

Clinical Laboratory Data is Health Business Data

One clinical laboratory working toward that opportunity is TriCore Reference Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M. It recently launched Diagnostic Optimization with the goal of improving the health of their communities.

“TriCore turned to this business model,” Shotorbani explained. “It is actively pursuing the strategy of intervention, prevention, and cost avoidance. TriCore is in conversation with health plans on how its lab test data and other data sets can be combined and analyzed to risk-stratify a population and to identify care gaps and assist in closing gaps.

“Further, TriCore is identifying high-risk patients early before they are admitted to hospitals and ERs—the whole notion of facilitating intervention between the healthcare provider and the potential person who may get sick,” he added. “These are no longer theoretical goals. They are realizations. Now the challenge is for Project Santa Fe to help other lab organizations develop similar value-added collaborations in their communities.”

Renee Ennis, TriCore’s Chief Financial Officer, told American Healthcare Leader, “Women go in (to an ER) for some condition, and the lab finds out they are pregnant before anyone else,” she said, adding that TriCore reaches out to insurers who can offer care coordinators for prenatal services.

“There is definitely a movement within the industry in this direction [of Clinical Lab 2.0],” she added. “But others might not be moving as quickly as we are. As a leader in this transition, I think a lot of eyes are on what we are doing and how we are doing it.”

Why Don’t More Lab Leaders Move Their Labs to Clinical Lab 2.0?

So, what holds labs back from pursing Clinical Lab 2.0? Shotorbani pointed to a couple of possibilities:

  • A lab’s traditional focus on volume while not developing partnerships (such as with pharmacy colleagues) inside the organization; and
  • Limited longitudinal data due to a provider’s sale of lab outreach services or outsourcing the lab.

“The whole notion of Clinical Lab 2.0 is basically connecting the longitudinal data—the Holy Grail of lab medicine. That is the business model. Without the longitudinal view, the ability to become a Clinical Lab 2.0 is extremely limited,” added Shotorbani.

New Clinical Lab 2.0 Workshop Focuses on Critical ‘Pillars’

Project Santa Fe Foundation will host the Third Annual Clinical Lab. 2.0 Workshop in Chicago on November 3-5. New this year are sessions aligned with Clinical Lab 2.0 “pillars” of leadership, standards, and evidence. The conference will feature panels addressing:

Click here to register online for this informative workshop, or place this URL in your browser https://dark.regfox.com/clinical-lab-20-workshop-by-project-santa-fe-foundation.

—Donna Marie Pocius

Related Information:

Project Santa Fe Foundation Files for 501( c) Status, Expands Board of Directors

Aspenti Health Wins Clinical Lab 2.0 Innovation Award Demonstrating the Clinical Laboratory as a First Responder to the Opioid Crisis

Renee Ennis Wants Lab to A Have a Seat at the Table

Aspenti Health Takes Home Grand Prize in Nation’s First Clinical Lab 2.0 Shark Tank Competition Showcasing Added Value, Clinical Success Stories