Utilization management of clinical laboratory tests may be the single hottest trend in laboratory medicine today. Across the nation, medical laboratory scientists and pathologists are getting out of the lab to collaborate with physicians to meet the common goal of ordering the right test for the right patient at the right time.
“There are two urgent reasons why clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups are engaging with clinicians in projects to improve the utilization of lab tests and both involve money,” stated Robert L. Michel, Editor-In-Chief of The Dark Report.
“First, an effective project to improve how physicians use lab tests can return immediate savings to both the lab and the parent hospital. Utilization management projects of this type have the goal of reducing or eliminating orders for duplicate tests, unnecessary tests, and outmoded lab assays.
For hospital labs with shrinking budgets, the speedy savings that result from these lab test utilization efforts provide welcome relief.
“Second, progressive medical laboratories that want to increase the value of their lab testing services to protect budgets and claim a fair share of value-based payments are going one step further,” explained Michel. “These labs are organizing collaborative projects with physicians and hospital administrators to leverage specific lab tests in ways that measurably improve patient outcomes while, at the same time, contributing to sizeable reductions in the overall cost per patient encounter.”
Today, almost every clinical laboratory and pathology group is under significant and sustained financial pressure. Payers continue to reduce the prices they pay for lab tests. Similarly, hospitals and health systems—facing flat or declining volume of inpatients—are pushing budget cuts across all their clinical service lines, including their labs.
These trends force lab directors to pursue the twin strategy of cutting costs while increasing revenue.
Better utilization of lab tests is a business and clinical strategy that enables labs to meet both goals. When physicians do a better job of ordering the right test, and following up the lab test results with the right therapies, healthcare costs go down while patient outcomes improve.
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