Panel of experts in healthcare and the clinical laboratory market identify key trends and discuss how innovative medical laboratories are adding value—and getting paid for that value

Effective clinical laboratory leadership in today’s value-based healthcare system means demonstrating value within an integrated delivery network. After all, as fee-for-service payment for clinical lab tests gives way to value-added reimbursement arrangements, all medical laboratories will need to justify their share of a value-based payment.

But how can clinical laboratories alert physicians and their parent hospitals to the real value they offer to improve patient outcomes and reduce healthcare costs? Though lab leaders may understand their medical lab’s complexity, accessibility, and impact, the question is how to direct the effort. The answer lies in a risk that some laboratory directors may not have considered.

Value-based healthcare systems include hospital-based medical laboratories as an essential part of their integrated health system. And, to lower the cost of care, healthcare systems involved in value-based care know they must become better at coordinating care and offering precision medicine services to their patients.

Year-by-year, more integrated health systems are learning how to eliminate gaps in care and become more proactive in delivering care that helps keep patients healthy. However, the task of leveraging the clinical laboratory in a strategic approach to demonstrating value in those health systems remains daunting. One of the goals of the Clinical Lab 2.0 model developed by the Project Santa Fe Foundation clinical laboratory organization is to demonstrate how labs can achieve two goals:

  • Create added-value services that improve patient care; and
  • Have health insurers, accountable care organizations (ACOs), and health networks pay remuneration to the clinical labs for those added-value services.

Pathologists, Clinical Chemists, and MTs Leave Thy Medical Labs

Expert panelists of a recent webinar hosted by Dark Daily and sponsored by Sunquest Information Systems suggested ways that clinical laboratories could better position themselves to be an asset for their organizations. One way to do this is to get their clinical pathologists, PhDs, and medical technologists out of the lab and engaged with physicians, nurses, and other clinical staff in specific ways that influence the healthcare organization’s overall performance in delivering better patient outcomes at less cost.

“If your pathologists aren’t sitting on the medical informatics committee or the clinical quality-improvement committee or any one of the myriad things at the enterprise level, that’s going to be a risk for you,” said Michael J. Crossey, MD, PhD, CEO and Chief Medical Officer for TriCore Reference Laboratories, during the webinar “Listen, Learn, Lead: Uncover Ways You Can Position Your Lab as a Strategic Pillar of the Healthcare Organization.” 

“Our labs have to be equal partners instead of recipients of where things are going,” he stressed. “We need to be, if not in the driver’s seat, at least in the front seat.”

The expert webinar panelists included:

Mark Dixon (above), President of the Mark Dixon Group LLC, moderated the webinar, which was sponsored by Sunquest Information Systems  and The Dark Report, sister publication of Dark Daily. Dixon has more than 30-years’ experience as a health system CEO and COO. He said TriCore and other labs are succeeding at value-based healthcare using methods that are well-defined and available for all clinical laboratories to learn. For example: TriCore has found that certain health insurers are willing to not only pay their laboratory differently, but also meet with the lab’s pathologists and leaders to negotiate value-based care arrangements. (Photo copyright: Mark Dixon Group.)

Fundamental Changes That Will Impact All Clinical Laboratories

The panel speakers discussed how clinical laboratories can strategically position themselves to be successful in today’s evolving healthcare industry. They predicted several fundamental changes would take place or continue. These changes include:

  • A continued shift away from pure fee-for-service payment (volume) to value-based reimbursement that rewards improved patient outcomes;
  • More discussion regarding prevention of illnesses, chronic diseases, and personal responsibility;
  • More focus on primary care and proactive care;
  • Rapid advances in science and technology that will spark development of new healthcare applications;
  • Continued trend toward consumerism, as more patients pay a larger portion of their healthcare expenses and shop for hospitals, doctors, and labs; and
  • Intense cost pressure on healthcare organizations and their medical laboratories.

It was noted during the panel discussion that, even as the US spends more than any other country in the world on healthcare, it has some of the worst overall outcomes.

Customers Rapidly Becoming Stakeholders

“I always think in terms of stakeholders and the number one stakeholder for any clinical laboratory or healthcare system is always the customer,” said Peters. “The lab’s customer is the ordering physician. So, it’s important that labs ‘speak their language’ and understand that the physician’s customer is the patient.”

Clinical laboratories also must be aware of what a particular healthcare system is trying to accomplish. “Lab leaders should stay in constant touch with where the market is, where the system is, and where reform is,” said Oravetz. “And realize there are things that can be done today to set up for what’s coming tomorrow.”

Terese said that for a clinical laboratory to survive during this rapid transformation of the US healthcare system—or at least continue to thrive—it needs to engage with the strategic and clinical initiatives guiding every health system around the country. “There is tremendous opportunity for clinical laboratories to not only support that transition, but to actually help drive it,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with thinking of your medical laboratory as a leader of these initiatives, versus just as a follower of what the organization is doing.”

Key elements of the webinar that will be of interest to clinical laboratories include:

  • Examples of clinical laboratories navigating the transition from volume to value-based care;
  • Discussion and update on fundamental changes coming to the US healthcare industry that impact clinical laboratories;
  • The case for demonstrating the value of clinical labs to healthcare organizations; and
  • Eight ways to elevate the value of clinical labs within an integrated healthcare network.

The experts on this special discussion panel agree that US healthcare and the clinical laboratory marketplace is in a time of transition. Pathologists and medical laboratory scientists have an opportunity to position themselves as leaders and changemakers to the benefit of patients, as well as their parent hospitals and health networks.

This free webinar can be a critical tool for leadership training within every clinical laboratory. It can be used to give lab managers and lab staff fresh insights into the changes happening in healthcare. Insights that can guide strategic planning and inspire laboratory-led projects to collaborate with physicians and improve patient care.

Download this webinar for free by clicking here. (Or, copy and paste this URL into your browser: https://darkintelligenceprogramsondemand.uscreen.io/programs/listen-learn-lead-uncover-ways-you-can-position-your-lab-as-a-strategic-pillar-of-the-healthcare-organization.)

—JP Schlingman

Related Information:

Free On-Demand Webinar: Listen, Learn, Lead: Uncover Ways You Can Position Your Lab as a Strategic Pillar of the Healthcare Organization

Ochsner Accountable Care Network Recognized Nationally for Quality and Efficiency

Defining Value—The Foundation of Outcomes-Based Risk-Sharing Agreements

Value-Based Contracts with Risk 3 to 5 Years Away for Providers

Humana’s New Oncology Value-Based Care Program Includes Quality and Cost Measurements of Provider Performance, Clinical Laboratories, and Pathology Groups