Independent clinical laboratories may continue to see their customer numbers drop as more consumers choose healthcare delivered in non-traditional locations
More clinical laboratory companies are offering testing in non-traditional locations with non-traditional delivery systems to serve busy healthcare consumers and ambulatory patients. One such company is eTrueNorth, a pharmacy‐based clinical laboratory services network.
The Mansfield, Texas-based company has partnered with Walmart (NYSE:WMT), Winn-Dixie, Kroger (NYSE:KR), and other retailers to offer their employees CLIA-waived point-of-care testing, preventive health services, wellness screenings, and other medical laboratory testing services through its eLabNetwork chain of retail pharmacies.
This is yet another example of a company responding to the public’s demand for convenient healthcare delivery, including clinical laboratory testing.
Pharmacists as Care Givers
eTrueNorth has quietly built a 5,500-location network of independent CLIA-waived laboratories in retail pharmacies. By bringing point-of-care testing to community pharmacies, the company says it can close gaps in healthcare.
“By empowering local pharmacists to administer preventative healthcare screenings and close gaps in care, eTrueNorth is working in partnership with retail pharmacies, self-funded employers, third-party payors and pharmaceutical manufacturers to identify undiagnosed conditions and better manage chronic diseases,” the company’s website states. “By leveraging the accessibility of retail pharmacies, eTrueNorth expands the scope of services provided to consumers to be more effective, of higher quality and, at the same time, enhance the pharmacy’s value as a key participant in a multidisciplinary healthcare delivery model.”
The website states that eTrueNorth’s ePOCT software suite “simplifies administrative processes for CLIA-waived labs that conduct point-of-care testing.” It provides the infrastructure for CLIA-waived laboratories to meet all applicable federal, state, and local regulations. In addition, the company provides documentation to medical professionals as they track compliance with quality-control efforts for diagnostic devices.
“In the next few months, we will be adding quite a few more [eLabNetwork locations] because we will be bringing on a couple of other major brands,” May said in a telephone interview.
May explained that all eLabNetwork pharmacies have standing orders for their limited test menu. This means consumers do not need a physician’s order to receive clinical laboratory services. As a result, however, consumers currently cannot submit a claim for the eLabNetwork service to their insurer. This is about to change.
Health Plans May Soon Partner with eLabNetwork Pharmacies
May announced that in the second quarter of 2020 eTrueNorth will launch “within several different health plans” the ability “to provide and submit claims for tests that will close quality measures, gaps in care.”
Though May could not yet announce which health plans will be partnering with eTrueNorth, she stated that participating insurers would be communicating with their members directly to steer them to eLabNetwork pharmacies where they can receive CLIA-waived testing.
May previously pointed out that health plans benefit from eTrueNorth engaging plan members at the pharmacy counter and addressing gaps in care ranging from diabetes testing to hypertension control and medication adherence. She cited as example an insurance plan member with diabetes who has not yet had an A1C test for diabetes or needs an microalbumin [urine] test.
“Our goal is to make it easier for individuals to have affordable and increased access to additional healthcare from the convenience of their local pharmacy,” she stated in a news release.
Another of eTrueNorth’s stated objectives is to increase the number of participants in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Diabetes Prevention Program (National DPP), which was created in 2010 to increase evidence-based, cost-effective interventions that help prevent Type 2 diabetes.
In order for Medicare Advantage-eligible patients to participate in the program, they must have a fasting blood glucose test. eTrueNorth believes increasing access to point-of-care blood testing could boost participation in the DPP.
“The eTrueNorth Voucher Solution is designed to maximize participation in wellness-screening events by providing convenient access to screenings,” May said in a news release. “Local pharmacists are trusted medical providers to the community. The eTrueNorth Voucher Solution allows individuals to obtain the same high-quality, accurate testing at retail pharmacies as they would from their primary-care office.”
How the Voucher Solution Works
The company’s voucher program enables employees who miss onsite wellness screenings, or who work remotely, to visit a local pharmacy to obtain point-of-care testing and on-the-spot counseling.
Through eLabNetwork’s website, an employee can confirm eligibility, choose a pharmacy based on zip code, schedule an appointment and create a voucher. In addition, the eLabNetwork transmits results to the wellness plan and/or patient’s physician, invoices wellness plan vendors, and sends payments to participating pharmacies for:
- Full lipid panel;
- Hemoglobin A1C testing (for individuals already diagnosed with diabetes); and
- Common vaccines.
The company has experienced rapid expansion, most recently adding the Kroger Family of Companies, Giant Food Stores, Food Lion, and Stop and Shop to its growing list of retail partners, a 2019 eTrueNorth Sell Sheet states.
“With 95% of the US population living within five miles of a retail pharmacy, eTrueNorth envisions a future where consumers can access healthcare,” May said in a company statement. “This expanding list of retail pharmacies has the potential to make a significant impact on how healthcare is delivered.”
Will independent clinical laboratories be affected by these events? Almost certainly. Dark Daily has reported often on the public’s increasing demand to receive healthcare in convenient, nearby locations, such as shopping malls and retail pharmacies. This is just another example of that expanding trend.
Lab leaders will want to keep a close eye on it and plan accordingly. It’s a trend that could potentially threaten clinical laboratories’ bottom lines.
—Andrea Downing Peck