Market Drivers Threaten ‘Golden Age of Diagnostics’

Healthcare mergers and acquisitions seem to be intensifying during a time that should be (and still could be) the “Golden Age of Diagnostics.” Industry consolidation also appears to be causing angst and even desperation among pathologists, laboratory directors and technologists who fear their labs may close or be outsourced.

Indeed, there is cause for concern. Healthcare futurists and authors, David Houle and Jonathan Fleece, predict one in three hospitals will close or reorganize by 2020. And this could also mean a loss or shake-up for about 33% of U.S. medical labs in just five years.

But consolidation of hospitals does not necessarily have to threaten labs that embrace coordinated diagnostics and strategically evolve.

Mergers: How Many and Why

Healthcare Finance is running a tab, so to speak. A developing list of mergers and acquisitions in the year 2015 totals 58 pages at this post’s time. One example is the merger of Barnabas Health and Robert Wood Johnson Health System in July. Eleven hospitals, 30,000 employees and 9,000 doctors are reportedly coming together to become a mega network in New Jersey.

Why do providers release autonomy? They merge or consolidate to boost efficiency and enhance competitiveness, explains Healthcare IT News.

In other words, they are reportedly aiming to scale accountable and population health in a post-Affordable Care Act industry, according to Healthcare Finance.

“Bigger is going to be better. Small is not going to survive,” Tom Baldosaro, chief financial officer at South Jersey Healthcare Regional Medical Center, Vineland, New Jersey, told Healthcare Finance.

So, what does all this mean to pathologists and laboratory directors? What business strategies are necessary to not just survive, but thrive? Read full blog post . . .

Strategic Labs Adopt Coordinated Diagnostics

Let’s be clear from the get-go. Diagnostics are hospital assets, and labs can be situated at the epicenter for healthcare market activity. Leaders of strategic labs know this and leverage all they got. For them, it is no longer business as usual: do tests, get paid (fingers-crossed) and repeat.

“Strategic labs deliver knowledge and insight across populations and individuals and payers in the mix. They manage the diagnostics process at a different level, because they are concerned with improving outcomes in healthcare and decreasing healthcare spending,” explains Robert Atlas, president and CEO of Atlas Medical.

How do they do it? They practice coordinated diagnostics. Coordinated diagnostics is a model for the practice of diagnostics across the healthcare continuum. It is the delivery of knowledge in real-time to support collaboration and coordination among care providers, diagnostic testing facilities, patients, payers and other stakeholders.

So, a strategic lab practicing coordinated diagnostics:

  • Offers right tests at opportune times;
  • Ensures and handles clean orders from many diverse providers (such as those in a newly consolidated healthcare system);
  • Optimizes test utilization, offering more of some tests, less of others;
  • Leverages lab data (secured from multiple sources), aiding accountable care organizations in improving outcomes and reducing costs;
  • Centers on patients, aiming toward quality experience and care and efficient sharing of test results;
  • Remains financially strong and is unlikely to close or be outsourced.

Coordinated Diagnostics Platform Required

But moving forward, as industry consolidation continues, is not going to be easy for labs. Advanced IT solutions, such as the Coordinated Diagnostics Platform from Atlas Medical, are necessary to enable enhancements to a lab’s diagnostics practice. The world’s only Coordinated Diagnostics Platform provides scalable, cost-effective software solutions for hospital labs as well as independent labs.

For example, for a Midwest healthcare system, the ATLAS’ Coordinated Diagnostics Platform served as an effective orchestrator. It made possible clean orders, efficient workflow and enhanced communication across a complex environment of diverse healthcare sites as well as IT suppliers and key physician constituents.

“This is the ‘Golden Age of Diagnostics.’ And it should be with molecular biology and so much more available to laboratories,” Robert Atlas enthuses. “But you have to get to a strategic level. How do you help improve outcomes? How do you help reduce costs? How do you engage with patients?”

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