The U.S. diagnostic and medical laboratories industry is growing rapidly in terms of technological advancements, output, demand for laboratory equipment and services, and employment. The New Year is the time for laboratories to celebrate their achievements, think about how to avoid past mistakes, and weigh in what they hope to accomplish in 2016. Rather than just setting resolutions, it would be much more practical to set meaningful goals and begin working towards making them a reality.
- Help clinicians achieve Meaningful Use (MU): The stringent requirements of the later stages of meaningful use will increase the number and complexity of laboratory interfaces. Stage two of MU requires the submission of electronic reportable laboratory results into EHR technology for both hospitals and physician practices. Laboratory systems have to be properly interfaced to electronic health records (EHRs). Labs also need to focus on tackling EHR coding challenges and ensuring greater value for patients and clinicians by providing real-time, useful information to achieve MU third stage goals – better clinical outcomes.
- Prepare for general industry challenges and opportunities: Preventive care has greatly enhanced the demand for lab testing. Physicians and payers including Medicare recognize the crucial role that diagnostic testing and disease prevention play in enhancing patient care and cutting healthcare costs. Laboratory professionals need to be prepared to face the challenges involved in controlling emerging infectious diseases and antibiotic-resistant organisms. In addition to providing accurate and timely diagnostic test results for the screening and monitoring of patients, labs should focus on adopting and integrating effective infection control practices.
- Work towards standardization: Laboratories should work towards meeting the international standard for medical laboratory quality and competence compiled by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Standardization is an essential requirement for laboratory automation. Improved document management systems and standardization of data interchange are expected to greatly improve operational efficiency and quality in clinical laboratories.
- Enhance quality control: The individualized quality control plan (IQCP) that becomes effective in January 2016 offers labs the potential for improving their quality control processes and testing results. After appropriate assessment by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the program offers labs the choice to implement a more flexible and customized QC procedure. To take advantage of IQCP, labs will need to better understand the principles of risk management and adopt tools that better detect error rates.
- Maintain financial stability: With the sweeping changes to Medicare’s reimbursement for clinical diagnostic lab tests, the billing and payment landscape is set to become complicated. Clinical labs should focus on improving revenues by cutting costs, improving operational efficiency, enhancing compliance and facing the threats and opportunities that these changes bring about.
Successful businesses learn from their successes and failures. By identifying what went right and what went wrong in various situations, clinical laboratories can come up with solutions and take constructive steps to reach higher levels of success in 2016 and further.
Enjoy the holiday break and return refreshed to all the new tasks the New Year will bring! Happy New Year!