NEW ONLINE COMMUNITY EMPHASIZES CRITICAL ROLE OF LABORATORY MEDICINE

LABTESTINGMATTERS.ORG

Physician Office Resource – June, 2015

 

NEW ONLINE COMMUNITY EMPHASIZES CRITICAL ROLE OF LABORATORY MEDICINE

IN PATIENT CARE

 

By John Daly, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, COLA  

 

Last year, COLA, a leading private accreditor of laboratories in the U.S., brought together more than 30 thought leaders in health care - including physicians, regulators, public health experts, medical laboratory scientists, manufacturers, nurse practitioners and others – in a Leadership Summit to discuss the future of laboratory medicine in the context of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The Summit focused on the importance of quality, what it means to laboratory professionals, and how to promote a continuous culture of excellence within the field.

 

Inspired by the Summit, COLA conceived an online community (www.Labtestingmatters.org) to further the exchange of ideas and experiences about the importance of laboratory medicine to quality patient care. While laboratory medicine is a largely unseen profession, it remains critical to the healthcare system, as it influences over 70 percent of all diagnostic decisions. The new website is intended to foster a sense of community around laboratory medicine, including but also transcending those who work directly in laboratories. It encourages lab professionals and other allied health partners to discuss the true value of laboratory medicine in the modern healthcare system.

Launched in April to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Medical Laboratory Professionals Week (MLPW), the site experienced more than 4,000 visitors in the first month alone; andmany continue to return.  The community includes some of the latest healthcare news and information, as well as contributions from laboratorians, other healthcare professionals and patients on a wide variety of topics related to laboratory quality, such as how lab results have helped doctors make critical diagnoses, and how patient outcomes have been affected by lab results. 

The community also is exploring trending laboratory issues such as:

  • The importance of performing the correct test correctly the first time. With the increased demand for testing and finite resources with which to pay for it, it’s more important than ever for practices to reduce testing redundancies. Labs can play a key consultative role for their healthcare partners by working with physicians to select “the right test for the right patient at the right time.” They also can share their knowledge, providing valuable information to help interpret lab test results. This leads to more effective patient care, which benefits everyone concerned.

  • The changing role of the consumer. Consumers are no longer in a passive role when it comes to laboratory testing.Clinical laboratories can now give patients access to their own lab test results upon request. This can empower patients to track their health progress, make decisions with their healthcare professionals and adhere to important treatment plans.

  • The rise of waived testing. Due to the growing number of tests exempt from federal and state laboratory quality requirements, many lab tests today are performed and in some cases interpreted by non-lab professionals.Since 1993, the number of CLIA-waived tests has increased from just nine tests to more than 5,400 test systems. And technology advances now permit many tests to be performed using mobile devices, by those with little or no laboratory training. The industry needs to consider morequality training of personnel at waived test sites, as well as additional lab training programs to ensure that there will be sufficient laboratoryworkers to handle the volume of testing in the future.

Contributions from physicians

A recent contributor to the site is Dr. Ardis Hoven, former president of the American Medical Association, which, along with the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American College of Physicians, is a member organization of COLA.  In her article, Dr. Hoven discusses the testing process for the measles disease, and how doctors can build trust with parents about the need for measles vaccinations, despite the decision of some parents not to vaccinate their children.

 

Labtestingmatters.org welcomes similar contributions from other physicians, who are invited to participate by sharing with the community why lab testing matters to them as physicians and to their patients.  The community also is highlighting real life stories about the role of laboratory testing.  Physicians are encouraged to submit anecdotes about how lab testing made a difference in patient treatments or outcomes, for example.   

 

Conclusion

By bringing together professionals from across the healthcare continuum to discuss the role of lab medicine, www.Labtestingmatters.org is demonstrating that lab testing does matter to us all.   It is critical that we continue this “whole system” dialogue so that, as we make decisions impacting the quality of patient care going forward, we don’t create unintended consequences. The patients we serve deserve nothing less.

 

 

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John T. Daly, M.D. is Chief Medical Officer of COLA, which accredits nearly 8,000 medical laboratories and provides the clinical laboratory with a program of education, consultation, and accreditation. The organization is an independent, non-profit accreditor whose education program and standards enable clinical laboratories and staff to meet U.S. CLIA and other regulatory requirements.  COLA’s program is endorsed by the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the American College of Physicians (ACP), and is recognized by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (TJC). For more information visit COLA's web site at www.cola.org or www.colainsider.org.