PwC’s list of 12 factors that will shape the healthcare landscape in 2018 calls attention to many new innovations Dark Daily has reported on that will impact how medical laboratories perform their tests
PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI) issued its annual report, detailing the 12 factors expected to impact the healthcare industry the most in 2018. Dark Daily culled items from the list that will most likely impact clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups. They include:
How clinical laboratory leaders respond to these items could, in part, be determined by new technologies.
AI Is Everywhere, Including in the Medical Laboratory
Artificial intelligence is becoming highly popular in the healthcare industry. According to an article in Healthcare IT News, business executives who were polled want to “automate tasks such as routine paperwork (82%), scheduling (79%), timesheet entry (78%), and accounting (69%) with AI tools.” However, only about 20% of the executives surveyed have the technology in place to use AI effectively. The majority—about 75%—plan to invest in AI over the next three years—whether they are ready or not.
One such example of how AI could impact clinical laboratories was demonstrated by a recent advancement in microscope imaging. Researchers at the University of Waterloo (UW) developed a new spectral light fusion microscope that captures images in full color and is far less expensive than microscopes currently on the market.
“In medicine, we know that pathology is the gold standard in helping to analyze and diagnose patients, but that standard is difficult to come by in areas that can’t afford it,” Alexander Wong, PhD, one of the UW researchers, told CLP.
“The newly developed microscope has no lens and uses artificial intelligence and mathematical models of light to develop 3D images at a large scale. To get the same effect using current technologies—using a machine that costs several hundred thousand dollars—a technician is required to ‘stitch together’ multiple images from traditional microscopes,” CLP noted.
Healthcare Intermediaries Could Become Involved with Clinical Laboratory Data
Pricing is one of the biggest concerns for patients and government entities. This is a particular concern for the pharmaceutical sector. PwC’s report notes that “stock values for five of the largest intermediaries in the pharmacy supply chain have slumped in the last two years as demands for lower costs and better outcomes have intensified.”
Thus, according to PwC, pressure may come to bear on intermediaries such as Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) and wholesalers, to “prove value and success in creating efficiencies or risk losing their place in the supply chain.”
Similar pressures to lower costs and improve efficiency are at work in the clinical laboratory industry as well. Dark Daily reported on one such cost-cutting measure that involves shifting healthcare payments toward digital assets using blockchains. The technology digitally links trusted payers and providers with patient data, including medical laboratory test results. (See, “Blockchain Technology Could Impact How Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups Exchange Lab Test Data,” September 29, 2017.)
PwC’s latest report predicts 12 forces that will continue to impact healthcare, including clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups, in 2018. Click on the image of the cover above to access an online version of the report. (Photo copyright: PwC/Issuu.)
The Opioid Crisis Remains at the Forefront
Healthcare will continue to feel the impact of the opioid crisis, according to the PwC report. Medical laboratories will continue to be involved in the diagnosis and treatment of opioid addition, which has garnered the full attention of the federal government and has become a multi-million-dollar industry.
Security Remains a Concern
Cybersecurity will continue to impact every facet of healthcare in 2018. Healthcare IT News reported, “While 95% of provider executives believe their organization is protected against cybersecurity attacks, only 36% have access management policies and just 34% have a cybersecurity audit process.”
Patients are aware of the risks and are often skeptical of health information technology (HIT), Dark Daily reported in June of last year. Clinical laboratories must work together with providers and healthcare organizations to audit their security measures. Recognizing the importance of the topic, the National Independent Laboratory Association (NILA) has named cybersecurity for laboratory information systems (LIS) a focus area.
Patient Experience a Priority
Although there have been significant improvements in the area of administrative tasks, there is still an enormous demand for a better patient experience, including in clinical laboratories. Healthcare providers want patients to make changes for the better that ultimately improve outcomes and the patient experience is one path toward that goal.
“Provider reimbursements will be based in part on patient engagement efforts such as promoting self-management and coaching patients between visits,” PwC noted in its report, a fact that Dark Daily has continually reported on for years. (See, “Pathologists and Clinical Lab Executives Take Note: Medicare Has New Goals and Deadlines for Transitioning from Fee-For-Service Healthcare Models to Value-Based Reimbursement,” April 1, 2015.)
Demands for Price Transparency Increase
As they follow healthcare reform guidelines to increase quality while lowering costs, state governments will continue to ramp up pressure on healthcare providers and third parties in the area of pricing. Rather than simply requiring organizations to report on pricing, states are moving towards legislating price controls, as Dark Daily reported in February.
Social Factors Affect Healthcare Access
The transition to value-based care makes the fact that patients’ socioeconomic statuses matter when it comes to their health. “The most important part of getting good results is not the knowledge of the doctors, not the treatment, not the drug. It’s the logistics, the social support, the ability to arrange babysitting,” David Berg, MD, co-founder of Redirect Health told PwC.
One such transition that is helping patients gain access to healthcare involves microhospitals and their adoption of telemedicine technologies, which Dark Daily reported on in March.
“Right now, they seem to be popping up in large urban and suburban metro areas,” Priya Bathija, Vice President, Value Initiative American Hospital Association, told NPR. “We really think they have the potential to help in vulnerable communities that have a lack of access.”
Data Collection Challenges Pharma
The 21st Century Cures Act, along with the potential exploitation of Big Data, will make it possible for organizations to gain faster, less expensive approvals from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As Dark Daily noted in April, the FDA “released guidelines on how the agency intends to regulate—or not regulate—digital health, clinical-decision-support (CDS), and patient-decision-support (PDS) software applications.
“Physician decision-support software utilizes medical laboratory test data as a significant part of a full dataset used to guide caregivers,” Dark Daily noted. “Thus, if the FDA makes it easier for developers to get regulatory clearance for these types of products, that could positively impact medical labs’ ability to service their client physicians.”
Healthcare Delivery During and Following Natural Disasters
PwC predicts the long-term physical results, financial limitations, and supply chain disruptions following natural disasters will continue to affect healthcare in 2018. The devastation can prevent many people from receiving adequate, timely healthcare.
However, new laboratory-on-a-chip (LOC) and other “lab-on-a-…” testing technologies, coupled with medical drone deliver services, can bring much need healthcare to remote, unreachable areas that lack electricity and other services. (See Dark Daily, “Lab-on-a-Fiber Technology Continues to Highlight Nano-Scale Clinical Laboratory Diagnostic Testing in Point-of-Care Environments,” April 2, 2018, and, “Johns Hopkins’ Test Drone Travels 161 Miles to Set Record for Delivery Distance of Clinical Laboratory Specimens,” November 15, 2017.)
PwC’s report is an important reminder of from where the clinical laboratory/anatomic pathology industry has come, and to where it is headed. Sharp industry leaders will pay attention to the predictions contained therein.
Top Health Industry Issue of 2018
PwC Health Research Institute Top Health Industry Issues of 2018 Report: Issuu Slide Presentation
12 Defining Healthcare Issues of 2018
Is Laboratory Medicine Ready for Artificial Intelligence?
Artificial Intelligence Imaging Research Facilitates Disease Diagnosis
Blockchain Technology Could Impact How Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups Exchange Lab Test Data
Skepticism, Distrust of HIT by Healthcare Consumers Undermines Physician Adoption of Medical Reporting Technologies, But Is Opportunity for Pathology Groups, Clinical Laboratories
Pathologists and Clinical Lab Executives Take Note: Medicare Has New Goals and Deadlines for Transitioning from Fee-For-Service Healthcare Models to Value-Based Reimbursement
Researchers Point to Cost of Services, including Medical Laboratories, for Healthcare Spending Gap Between the US and Other Developed Countries
Telemedicine and Microhospitals Could Make Up for Reducing Numbers of Primary Care Physicians in US Urban and Metro Suburban Areas
New FDA Regulations of Clinical Decision-Support/Digital Health Applications and Medical Software Has Consequences for Medical Laboratories
Lab-on-a-Fiber Technology Continues to Highlight Nano-Scale Clinical Laboratory Diagnostic Testing in Point-of-Care Environments
Johns Hopkins’ Test Drone Travels 161 Miles to Set Record for Delivery Distance of Clinical Laboratory Specimens
Softened FDA regulation of both clinical-decision-support and patient-decision-support software applications could present opportunities for clinical laboratory developers of such tools
Late 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released guidelines on how the agency intends to regulate—or not regulate—digital health, clinical-decision-support (CDS), and patient-decision-support (PDS) software applications. The increased/decreased oversight of the development of these physicians’ tools could have important implications for anatomic pathology groups and clinical laboratories.
Physician decision-support software utilizes medical laboratory test data as a significant part of a full dataset used to guide caregivers. Thus, if the FDA makes it easier for developers to get regulatory clearance for these types of products, that could positively impact medical labs’ ability to service their client physicians.
Additionally, clinical pathologists have unique training in diagnosing diseases and understanding the capabilities and limitations of medical laboratory tests in supporting how physicians diagnose disease and make treatment decisions. Thus, actions by the FDA to make it easier for developers of software algorithms that can incorporate clinical laboratory data and anatomic pathology images with the goal of improving diagnoses, decisions to treat, and monitoring of patients have the potential to bring great benefit to the nation’s medical laboratories.
FDA Clarifies Role in Regulating CDS/PDS Applications
The new guidelines clarified items specified in the 21st Century Cures Act, which was enacted by Congress in December of 2016. This Act authorized $6.3 billion in funding for the discovery, development, and delivery of advanced, state-of-the art medical cures.
“Today, we’re announcing three new guidances—two draft and one final—that address, in part, important provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act, that offer additional clarity about where the FDA sees its role in digital health, and importantly, where we don’t see a need for FDA involvement,” FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, Commissioner of Food and Drugs, noted in a statement. “We’ve taken the instructions Congress gave us under the Cures Act and [we] are building on these provisions to make sure that we’re adopting the full spirit of the goals we were entrusted with by Congress.”
Helping Doctors’ Decision-Making
The first guideline concerns clinical decision support systems that are designed to help doctors make data-driven decisions about patient care. The new guidelines make it easier for software developers to get regulatory clearance, which, the FDA hopes, will spark innovation and makes regulation more efficient.
“CDS has many uses, including helping providers, and ultimately patients, identify the most appropriate treatment plan for their disease or condition,” Gottlieb said in the FDA’s statement. “For example, such software can include programs that compare patient-specific signs, symptoms, or results with available clinical guidelines to recommend diagnostic tests, investigations or therapy.
“This type of technology has the potential to enable providers and patients to fully leverage digital tools to improve decision making,” Gottlieb continued. “We want to encourage developers to create, adapt, and expand the functionalities of their software to aid providers in diagnosing and treating old and new medical maladies.”
Identifying Digital Health Applications That Receive/Don’t Receive FDA Oversight
The second guideline discusses and delineates which digital health applications are considered low risk and, thus, will not fall under FDA regulations.
Products that are not intended to be used for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, prevention, or treatment of a condition will not be regulated by the FDA. These technologies are not considered medical devices and may include gadgets such as weight management and mindfulness tools. They can provide value to consumers and the healthcare industry while posing a low risk to patients.
“Similarly, the CDS draft guidance also proposes to not enforce regulatory requirements for lower-risk decision support software that’s intended to be used by patients or caregivers—known as patient-decision-support software (PDS)—when such software allows a patient or a caregiver to independently review the basis of the treatment recommendation,” Gottlieb noted in the statement.
Scott Gottlieb, MD (above), FDA Commissioner of Food and Drugs, noted in a statement, “We believe our proposals for regulating CDS and PDS not only fulfill the provisions of the Cures Act, but also strike the right balance between ensuring patient safety and promoting innovation. Clinical laboratories may find opportunities to work with CDS/PDS developers and support their client physicians. (Photo copyright: FDA.)
However, products that are intended to be used for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, prevention, or treatment of a condition are considered medical devices and will fall under FDA regulations.
“The FDA will continue to enforce oversight of software programs that are intended to process or analyze medical images, signals from in vitro diagnostic devices, or patterns acquired from a processor like an electrocardiogram that use analytical functionalities to make treatment recommendations, as these remain medical devices under the Cures Act,” noted Gottlieb.
Items such as mobile apps that are utilized to maintain and encourage a healthy lifestyle are not deemed to be medical devices and will fall outside FDA regulations. The guidelines also defined that Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC)-certified electronic health record (EHR) systems are not medical devices and, thus, will not be regulated by the FDA.
Software-as-a-Medical Device Gets FDA Oversight
The third guidance document deals with the assessment of the safety, performance, and effectiveness of Software as a Medical Device (SaMD).
“This final guidance provides globally recognized principles for analyzing and assessing SaMD, based on the overall risk of the product. The agency’s adoption of these principles provides us with an initial framework when further developing our own specific regulatory approaches and expectations for regulatory oversight and is another important piece in our overarching policy framework for digital health,” Gottlieb noted in the statement.
SaMD is defined by the International Medical Device Regulators Forum (IMDRF) as “software intended to be used for one or more medical purposes that perform these purposes without being part of a hardware medical device.”
Gottlieb noted that the three important guidance documents being issued would continue to expand the FDA’s efforts to encourage innovation in the ever-changing field of digital health. “Our aim is to provide more clarity on, and innovative changes to, our risk-based approach to digital health products, so that innovators know where they stand relative to the FDA’s regulatory framework. Our interpretation of the Cures Act is creating a bright line to define those areas where we do not require premarket review,” he concluded.
What remains to be seen is how the new FDA regulations will impact clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups. With the expanding interest in artificial intelligence (AI) and self-learning software systems, healthcare futurists are predicting a rosy future for informatics products that incorporate these technologies. Hopefully, with these new guidelines in place, innovative clinical laboratories will have the opportunity to develop new digital products for their clients.
FDA Softens Stance on Clinical-decision Support Software
Clinical and Patient Decision Support Software
FDA Issues New Guidance for Clinical and Patient Decision Support Software
Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on Advancing New Digital Health Policies to Encourage Innovation, Bring Efficiency and Modernization to Regulation
FDA Issues Three Guidances, Including Long-awaited CDS Guidelines
The Feds Just Cleared a Major Roadblock for Digital Health
FDA Unveils Clinical Decision Support, Medical Device Guidance