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Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups

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News, Analysis, Trends, Management Innovations for
Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups

Hosted by Robert Michel
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Executive War College Headliners Connect Genetic Testing, Wearable Technology, Precision Medicine, and Struggle Over Claim Reimbursement between Clinical Labs and Payers

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.

William Morice II, MD, PhD

“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. 

Scott Wallask

Related Information:

Executive War College Keynote Speakers Highlight How Clinical Laboratories Can Capitalize on Multiple Growth Opportunities

What Key Laboratory Leaders Will Learn at This Week’s 2023 Executive War College on Diagnostics, Clinical Laboratory, and Pathology Management

Ambulatory Seizure Forecasting with a Wrist-Worn Device Using Long-Short Term Memory Deep Learning

UnitedHealth’s Optum to Offer Lab Test Management

Learning from Payer Behavior to Increase Appeal Success

What Key Laboratory Leaders Will Learn at This Week’s 2023 Executive War College on Diagnostics, Clinical Laboratory, and Pathology Management

Executives and pathologists from many of the nation’s most prominent clinical laboratories are on their way to the Crescent City today to share best practices, hear case studies from innovative labs, and network

NEW ORLEANS—This afternoon, more than 900 lab CEOs, administrators, and pathologists will convene for the 28th Annual Executive War College on Diagnostics, Clinical Laboratory, and Pathology Management conference. Three topics of great interest will center around adequate lab staffing, effective cost management, and developing new sources of lab testing revenue.

Important sessions will also address the explosion in next-generation sequencing and genetic testing, proposed FDA regulation of laboratory-developed tests (LDTs), and innovative ways that clinical laboratories and pathology groups can add value and be paid for that additional value.

All this is happening amidst important changes to healthcare and medicine in the United States. “Today, the US healthcare system is transforming itself at a steady pace,” explained Robert L. Michel, Editor-in-Chief of The Dark Report and Founder of the Executive War College. “Big multi-hospital health systems are merging with each other, and payers are slashing reimbursement for many medical lab tests, even as healthcare consumers want direct access to clinical laboratory tests and the full record of their lab test history.

“Each of these developments has major implications in how clinical laboratories serve their parent organizations, offer services directly to consumers, and negotiate with payers for fair reimbursement as in-network providers,” Michel added. “Attending the Executive War College on Diagnostics, Clinical Laboratory, and Pathology Management equips lab leaders with the tools they’ll need to make smart decisions during these challenging times.”

Executive War College

Now in its 28th year, the Executive War College on Diagnostics, Clinical Laboratory, and Pathology Management convenes April 25-26 in New Orleans. Executive War College extends to a third day with three full-day workshops: LEAN fundamentals for lab leaders, a genetic testing program track, and a digital pathology track. Learn more at (Photo copyright: The Dark Intelligence Group.)

Challenges and Opportunities for Clinical Laboratories

With major changes unfolding in the delivery and reimbursement of clinical services, clinical laboratory and pathology practice leaders need effective ways to respond to the evolving needs of physicians, patients, and payers. As The Dark Report has often covered, three overlapping areas are a source of tension and financial pressure for labs:

  • Day-to-day pressures to manage costs in the clinical laboratory or pathology practice.
  • The growing demand for genetic testing, accompanied by reimbursement challenges.
  • Evolving consumer expectations in how they receive medical care and interact with providers.

Addressing all three issues and much more, the 2023 Executive War College on Diagnostics, Clinical Laboratory, and Pathology Management features more than 80 sessions with up to 125 lab managers, consultants, vendors, and in vitro diagnostic (IVD) experts as speakers and panelists.

Old-School Lab Rules Have Evolved into New-School Lab Rules

Tuesday’s keynote general sessions (to be reported exclusively in Wednesday’s Dark Daily ebriefing) will include four points of interest for clinical laboratory and pathology leaders who are managing change and pursuing new opportunities:

  • Positioning the lab to prosper by serving healthcare’s new consumers, new care models, new payment models, and more, with Michel at the podium.
  • How old-school lab rules have evolved into new-school lab rules and ways to transition the lab through today’s disrupters in healthcare and the clinical laboratory marketplace, with Stan Schofield, Managing Principal of the Compass Group.
  • The growing trend of clinical laboratory-pharmacy relationships with David Pope, PharmD, CDE, Chief Pharmacy Officer at OmniSYS, XIFIN Pharmacy Solutions.
  • Generating value by identifying risk signals in longitudinal lab data and opportunities in big data from payers, physicians, pharma, and bioresearch, with Brad Bostic, Chairman and CEO of hc1.

Wednesday’s keynote sessions (see exclusive insights in Friday’s Dark Daily ebriefing) explore:

Wednesday’s keynotes conclude with a panel discussion on delivering value to physicians, patients, and payers with lab testing services.

Clinical Labs, Payers, and Health Plans Swamped by Genetic Test Claims

Attendees of the 2023 Executive War College on Diagnostics, Clinical Laboratory, and Pathology Management may notice a greater emphasis on whole genome sequencing and genetic testing this year.

As regular coverage and analysis in The Dark Report has pointed out, clinical laboratories, payers, and health plans face challenges with the explosion of genetic testing. Several Executive War College Master Classes will explore critical management issues of genetic and genomic testing, including laboratory benefit management programs, coverage decisions, payer relations, and best coding practices, as well as genetic test stewardship.

This year’s Executive War College also devotes a one-day intensive session on how community hospitals and local labs can set up and offer genetic tests and next-generation sequencing services. This third-day track features more than a dozen experts including:

During these sessions, attendees will be introduced to “dry labs” and “virtual CLIA labs.” These new terms differentiate the two organizations that process genetic data generated by “wet labs,” annotate it, and provide analysis and interpretation for referring physicians.

State of the Industry: Clinical Lab, Private Practice Pathology, Genetic Testing, IVD, and More

For lab consultants, executives, and directors interested in state-of-the-industry Q/A and discussions concerning commercial laboratories, private-practice pathology, and in vitro diagnostics companies, a range of breakout sessions, panels, and roundtables will cover:

  • Action steps to protect pathologists’ income and boost practice revenue.
  • Important developments in laboratory legal, regulatory, and compliance requirements.
  • New developments in clinical laboratory certification and accreditation, including the most common deficiencies and how to reach “assessment ready” status.
  • An update on the IVD industry and what’s working in today’s post-pandemic market for lab vendors and their customers.
  • Federal government updates on issues of concern to clinical laboratories, including PAMA, the VALID Act, and more.

Long-time attendees will notice the inclusion of “Diagnostics” into the Executive War College moniker. It’s an important addition, Michel explained for Dark Daily.

“In the recent past, ‘clinical laboratory’ and ‘anatomic pathology’ were terms that sufficiently described the profession of laboratory medicine,” he noted. “However, a subtle but significant change has occurred in recent years. The term ‘diagnostics’ has become a common description for medical testing, along with other diagnostic areas such as radiology and imaging.”

Key managers of medical laboratories, pathology groups, and in vitro diagnostics have much to gain from attending the Executive War College on Diagnostics, Clinical Laboratory, and Pathology Management, now in its 28th year. Look for continued coverage through social media channels, at Dark Daily, and in The Dark Report.

Clinical laboratories are invited to continue the conversations by joining the Executive War College Discussion Group and The Dark Report Discussion Group on LinkedIn.

Liz Carey

Related Information:

Executive War College on Diagnostics, Clinical Laboratory, and Pathology Management Agenda

Six Important Themes to Help Labs Succeed

Executive War College Press

The Dark Report

Dark Daily eBriefings

The Dark Report Discussion Group

Executive War College Discussion Group

How Close Is the End of Private Practice Pathology as We’ve Known It?

Payers are cutting reimbursements for anatomic pathology services, making it essential for every pathology group to understand its financial present and future

Certain pathology business leaders are warning their colleagues that the era of private pathology group practice domination of the anatomic pathology marketplace is about to end. The only question is how rapidly the clinical and financial foundations of smaller pathology group practices erodes to the point where these groups are unable to generate adequate reimbursement to sustain the practice and the incomes of the individual pathologists.

However, along with this bad news comes a note of optimism. There is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the anatomic pathology profession to take ownership of genetic testing and precision medicine—the most important diagnostic technologies to emerge in the past 100 years. The danger for anatomic pathologists is how to successfully transition from the private group practice model to the new clinical practice models that deliver genetic testing and precision medicine services.

Why Pathologists Are Making Less Money Today

The economic plight of private practice pathology is familiar to all pathologists. During the past decade, reimbursement for technical component (TC) and professional component (PC) services was regularly beat down by payers. For example, pathologists lost the TC grandfather clause in 2012, which immediately caused many histology labs to go from profit to loss. (See Dark Daily, “In Fixing Physician Medicare Pay, Congress Enacts Yet Another Cut in Clinical Laboratory Test Fee Schedule,” February 12, 2012.)

Similarly, over the past 10 years, each time private health insurers negotiated the renewal of a managed care contract with a pathology group practice, they aggressively cut the prices they paid for anatomic pathology services. And the corresponding explosive growth of narrow provider networks exacerbated the financial erosion from lower prices. Many smaller pathology groups found themselves excluded from these networks, causing them to lose access to the large numbers of private-pay patients served by these networks.

“It is important for every surgical pathologist and every pathology practice administrator to recognize that they have the ability to negotiate much more favorable terms and increased network access with health insurers, but only if they come to the negotiating table with the right information and techniques,” observed Robert L. Michel, Editor-in-Chief of Dark Daily and The Dark Report. “Pathology groups showing strong financial performance today know these techniques and strategies. When negotiating managed care contracts, they achieve higher reimbursements, more favorable terms, and in-network status.”

Proven Ways to Help Pathology Groups Protect and Increase Revenue

Pathologists who would like to protect their groups’ revenue and bolster their partners’ income have the opportunity to learn and master the most effective managed care contracting techniques and strategies. Three nationally prominent experts in pathology business and operations are participating in a special webinar, titled “How Payers Are Repricing Anatomic Pathology: Your Financial Present and Your Pathology Group’s Future,” which takes place on Thursday, September 28, 2017 at 2:00 p.m. EDT.

Pictured above left to right are Mick Raich, President and CEO, Vachette Pathology; Jeffrey Pearson, MD, System Medical Director, Bronson Hospital Laboratories; and, Christopher Jahnle, co-founder and Managing Director, Haverford Healthcare Advisors. The three distinguished speakers will share expertise and experiences you can use to protect your pathology group’s revenue while preserving partner income. (Photo copyright: Dark Daily.)

First to speak on this webinar is Mick Raich, founder and CEO of Vachette Pathology, of Blissfield, Mich. He will discuss how Medicare and private insurers are using new pathology and lab repricing models to slash reimbursement and control utilization of expense pathology testing services. Raich will explain why payers are engaging such third-party companies as AIM Specialty Health of Chicago, Avalon Healthcare Solutions of Tampa, Fla., BeaconLBS of Montvale, N.J., and InformedDNA of St. Petersburg, Fla., to develop coverage guidelines, issue preauthorization, and manage the network of labs and pathology groups allowed to provide services.

Raich will further explain what pathologists must know about the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) physician payment program, with its MIPS—Merit-based Incentive Payment System—that is designed to pay bonuses or assess penalties each year, depending on how individual physicians perform against their own operational and clinical benchmarks.

Insidious Methods Payers Use to ‘Take Back’ by Underpaying Certain Pathology Claims

Another topic that Raich will address can mean significantly greater collected revenue for your pathology group. He will explain the new phenomenon of how private payers are auditing error rates on claims, then taking back those overpayments by underpaying the labs or pathology groups on claims for specific CPT codes (current procedural terminology codes). Raich will show how your billing/collection team can detect these claims and recover full payment from the payers.

How One Pathology Group Practice Doubled in Size

The second important financial topic of the webinar involves the merger, acquisition, and consolidation of private pathology group practices. You’ll learn why many group practices are losing their independence due to declining revenue or because their parent hospital was acquired by a health system. Pathologist Jeffrey Pearson, MD, is the System Medical Director at Bronson Hospital Laboratories in Kalamazoo, Mich. He is also a partner and President of Pathology Services of Kalamazoo, PC.

During his tenure at Bronson, Pearson helped facilitate the acquisition and assimilation of two hospital laboratories and one for-profit laboratory. His pathology practice has doubled in size and developed a high degree of subspecialization. Each time, the pathology group associated with the acquired entity had to be integrated with his health system’s existing pathology group practice. Experiences will be shared regarding:

·       How to assimilate acquired laboratories;

·       Practice utilization management; and

·       Leveraging success to grow the practice and obtain favorable part A contracts.

Understanding How to Increase the Value of Your Anatomic Pathology Group

To round out the financial techniques and strategies you and your pathology practice administrator can use to protect your group’s revenue and boost partner income, the webinar’s third expert will discuss the latest developments in pathology practice mergers, acquisitions, and consolidations.

Christopher Jahnle is co-founder and Managing Director of Haverford Healthcare Advisors in Paoli, Penn., a suburb of Philadelphia. Over the past decade, his firm has represented Aurora Diagnostics of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., as a purchaser of private pathology group practices.

Jahnle will describe the specific characteristics of a private pathology practice that have the highest value to buyers in today’s marketplace. You’ll understand how your pathology group’s unique mix of managed care contracts, hospital/health system relationships, and sub-specialist expertise will be valued by a potential acquirer or merger partner.

Jahnle will share case study examples to help you identify useful things your pathology group can do to make it more profitable and increase its value. This is essential knowledge if your group’s pathologists are considering such strategies as:

·       “Should we merge with a bigger pathology group?”

·       “Should we sell our pathology group?” and

·       “Should we add subspecialists and pursue more hospital contracts?”

All three expert speakers have practical knowledge that you can use to protect your pathology group’s revenue while preserving partner income. It is why this webinar is timely and a “must attend” for you, your pathology practice administrator, and your pathology group’s legal and financial consultants.

Full details about this important webinar are at this link (or copy and paste this URL into your browser:

—Michael McBride, Managing Editor

Related Information:

How Payers Are Repricing Anatomic Pathology: Your Financial Present and Your Pathology Group’s Future

In Fixing Physician Medicare Pay, Congress Enacts Yet Another Cut in Clinical Laboratory Test Fee Schedule