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How Will Quick Labs Change Healthcare?

Posted on September 23, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I was struck by the news that HealthSpot was planning to bring the 7 minute blood test to their retail pharmacy clinics. For those not familiar with HealthSpot, they provide a kind of kiosk setup that allows for a telemedicine visit with a doctor. However, what makes them unique is that the kiosk is staffed by an MA who can assist the patient. Plus, the kiosk has a bunch of medical devices which the remote doctor can make available to the patient as part of their treating the patient.

While I find it fascinating that HealthSpot is taking this all to the next level with a 7 minute blood test, it also made me start to think about the impact of these quick lab tests on healthcare in general. We’re seeing much of this work pioneered by Theranos’ lab efforts. The HealthSpot announcement above seems to indicate that a whole wave of new quick labs are heading to the market.

We like to talk about the lab result workflow when it comes to EHR software. If you have an interface between your EHR and the lab, then the results can automatically appear in the EHR. Over the years I’ve heard a lot of debate and discussion around whether the lab results should be automatically shared with the patient or not. The arguments against sharing revolve around the patient misreading the diagnosis or the patient getting a bad result without a medical provider there to help them deal with the bad result and put it in context.

On the other side of the coin is the patients who say that it’s there data and they should have access to their data. Plus, they argue that waiting a few extra days for a normal result causes days of extra worrying while the patient waits for the doctor to get back to them with the normal result. The most common thinking is that normal results are fine to share in real time and the abnormal results are best delivered by someone to the patient. Of course, smart patients realize that if they don’t hear from the doctor soon, then it’s bad news which means the doctors have to stay on top of calling back even the abnormal results.

Now let’s reframe this discussion when it only takes 7 minutes to get the lab results. All of the above discussion doesn’t matter. The patient waits at the office for 7 minutes, the doctor has the results and can share the results with the patients immediately with the doctor present. No more phone tag. No more worrying while the patient waits for the results. No more issues with automatically sharing the results with the patients electronically. It’s really quite beautiful.

Of course, we won’t be able to do this for all lab results. Some lab results just take time. However, these quick labs are going to change a lot of things about how we interact with patients and that’s a good thing.

$5k Per EHR Lab Interface

Posted on February 1, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

A provider organization recently reached out to me to discuss the issues they were having trying to get their EHR vendor to do a lab interface with their lab. It was a pretty standard large EHR vendor document where they nickle and dime you for little things like a lab interface. Looking at it always reminds me of when I’ve seen the $5 aspirin charge in the hospital.

The problem with the lab interface charge is that it’s usually $5000 instead of $5. When an organization is choosing to implement an EHR, they often forget about many of the future hidden costs associated with an EHR vendor like the EHR lab interface. Plus, they also forget that the EHR vendor will often charge them $5k for the interface and then the lab will charge them another $5k for that interface. This is often true even when an EHR vendor has created many interfaces with a particular lab vendor before.

In fact, the organization that I mentioned above brought a new light to the cost of lab interface. It turns out that this organization was on its third lab and thus its third lab interface with their EHR. I don’t expect clinics change labs this often, but it is very common for a medical organization to switch from one lab to another. Plus, let’s not even get started on the challenge of getting a hospital lab to integrate with your EHR.

Not all EHR vendors are like those I mention above. In fact, a number of EHR vendors have seen this as a great way to differentiate their EHR from other competing EHR vendors. I know of at least one EHR vendor that’s done a few hundred lab interfaces (all at no cost to the doctor). The large number of labs partially illustrates the challenge associated with lab interfaces. There are just so many of them that need to be done. It’s not like there’s 1 or 2 labs that dominate the market. However, many EHR vendors are offering a free lab interface as part of the EHR purchase. Be sure to ask before you buy.

The sad part of the lab interface story is that because of the items mentioned above, many doctors just end up scrapping a lab interface. They can’t justify a $10k expense to integrate their EHR with the lab. This is unfortunate, because it’s amazing how much benefit can come from a well integrated EHR Lab interface.