By Katie Witkowski

This is part of hc1.com's In My Opinion series - a variety of blog posts curated by our Advisory Board members focusing on their opinions about healthcare today.

In a turbulent market, there will always be winners and losers. No matter the industry - whether the healthcare system, the auto industry, or the real-estate market - turmoil means change, and change requires the re-engineering of engrained processes and procedures. Labs, both big and small, will have a limited window to change, and sadly some will miss their opportunity. There will be more consolidations and mergers of labs, and health systems will be more aggressive about integrating lab operations across specialties, locations, and healthcare service organizations. This will force labs to reassess their role in the spectrum of care.

consolidation

Even though money is tight, labs cannot stop wisely investing in their future. This is true across all industries, and healthcare organizations must start making decisions like the business enterprises they are. This goes deeper than just providing excellent client service and providing value. The lab of the future will be as much a data developer as a service provider.

Labs are sitting on a huge cache of patient data. If they can manage this data, and regulate provider access to critical information, then they will be able to control their future in a changing market. This patient data is critical for providers to perform at a higher level and to function in an integrated care, outcome-based environment. As the provider of over 70% of the data in a patient's EMR, the laboratory is critical for both clinical quality and service efficiency. Arguably, labs should be compensated for generating and providing this information.

There are other ways that labs can differentiate themselves from their peers, set themselves up as more than just a service provider, and prove their value in the marketplace. Educating physicians on what tests should be ordered, and how the results should drive treatment decisions, provides value to both the doctor and the patient. If labs can deliver data and results to providers in the most efficient and comprehensive manner, the providers will take notice. The immediate focus doesn't have to be on cutting costs - it has to be on long-term solutions that lead to real results.

Amid all of the turmoil and change, a new healthcare market is starting to emerge. This market is based on quality outcomes and demonstrative data. Proactive laboratories and health systems that actively utilize solutions to strengthen and build client relationships have a substantial head start in the migration into this new market.

Rick Cooper serves as Manager of the National Healthcare Practice Group at McDonald Hopkins and is co-chair of its Healthcare Restructuring Practice Group.

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