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.