By Aric Harris

It is common knowledge among clinicians and administrators -- within labs and healthcare providers -- that a massive amount of data is piled up inside healthcare.  The potential opportunities for this data to be presented in an intelligent and meaningful way are nearly limitless. We stand to gain massive improvements in the quality of care while reducing costs.  Some of our brightest minds are attacking this challenge -- formulating algorithms that can enhance decision making and creating a more interconnected healthcare continuum.  

While we strive to transform healthcare in revoluntionary ways, there are also some really practical and simple steps we can take today that can generate huge gains.

A recent article by Katherine Hobson in the Wall Street Journal illustrates one such low hanging fruit opportunity to dramatically decrease healthcare costs:  Simply provide healthcare providers with real-time visibility into the costs of the tests they order when they are ordering them.  

A study, conducted by the University of Miami and Brown University, allowed physicians and other ordering clinicians to see the cost of each lab test they ordered prior to placing the order.  The result? Over 11 weeks those healthcare providers saved $54,967 by eliminating unnecessary testing.  

While traditional Lab Management Tools do not generally support this type of visibility to healthcare providers, newer healthcare cloud computing solutions are able to easily extend tailored information to healthcare providers, allowing them to optimize lab utilization.  Although this type of visibility is somewhat unusual today in healthcare, the advent of cloud based Lab CRM capabilities extend lab analytics to healthcare providers, making the lab a true partner rather than merely a lab processor.  

According to Dr. Benedict Cosimi of Harvard Medical School, physicians and patients rarely know what routine tests and treatments cost.  

Additionally, physicians and staff members often lack access to intelligent guidance on optimal testing for a given patient or population of patients.  While more advanced capabilities are required to assist with this, the major point illustrated by this study is that transparency of information throughout the continuum of care -- primarily among healthcare professionals -- can go a long way to generate significant gains in the costs and efficiencies that are achieved.  

The exciting news is that major gains in healthcare are being made to construct an environment where care and quality are significantly improved while costs are reduced.  In order to fully transform healthcare into a quality rather than quantity-based environment, information must flow freely and data must be transformed into intelligence.  This study illustrates a small example of a significant fact: Making information available at the right time, to the right person, can result in significant gains.  

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