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.

As the healthcare landscape grows, health systems and diagnostic labs are beginning to adjust to new relationships and procedures that weren’t there 15 years ago. Health systems and diagnostic laboratories are faced with more data than ever before, and knowing what to do with this added workload is how labs will prove their value in the industry.

High-level test results are expensive, and the money isn’t flowing in like it used to. This opens up the door for ‘co-opetition’ between large in-house laboratories and smaller, specialty labs. These focused, esoteric tests are exponentially more expensive and take much longer to run than generic large-batch lab tests, but they provide extremely thorough and specific results that lead to better patient treatment and care. Large health system labs are beginning to understand the value of esoteric testing, but inter-lab communication can open a whole new can of problems for labs that may already be behind the growing technology curve.

For example, if Lab A sends a test to specialty Lab B, Lab A will receive the test results in whatever format Lab B uses – not whatever format they may need them in. If Lab A receives tests results in a spreadsheet, email or, alarmingly, a fax, it means a technician will need to manually enter the results into Lab A’s system, and then process them from there. This manual entry process is a waste of valuable employee time in the lab, and healthcare executives are beginning to take notice. Healthcare CIOs and CTOs are looking at the growing paper trail of inter-lab communication and seeing a bigger picture emerging – roadblocks in lab workflows.

Overcoming these roadblocks and streamlining daily processes and procedures are just two of the essential steps that healthcare organizations must take to become an ACO in the eyes of the federal government. All health systems must be able to prove value in this changing healthcare environment.

There is a saying that you are only as good as your weakest link, and this saying is doubly true in healthcare. Hospitals and health systems are only as value-driven as what they can control in their organization. When a hospital begins its stride towards becoming an ACO, executives begin bulking up the physician base, padding the value output as much as possible. For laboratories, this means one thing – more data. As these physician mergers and acquisitions take flight, the lab that knows how to handle the data influx will be the one to survive the changes.

Implementing a healthcare relationship management solution can be the key for laboratories to handle co-opetition and mergers in stride. Being able to not only handle massive amounts of provider and patient data without batting an eye but also take action on that data and communicate critical results in real-time goes beyond providing value – it can change lives.

Ken Cerney is the CEO of LI Path, a leading high-performance clinical pathology laboratory in the New York City metropolitan area.

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