Testing Expensive

A story about American medical laboratories needing to update their Information Systems (LIS) to match the rapid adoption of electronic medical records (EMR) in health care organizations caught my attention.  It said that lab managers should think of their LIS as they think of their cell phones and be ready to update to the latest’s gadgets and models as often as every year.

This pressure is driven by government policy that is rapidly expanding the use of EMRs in Health Maintenance Organizations, other primary care practices and the new Accountable Care Organizations being set up under the Affordable Care Act. Competition between laboratories to provide services to these organizations means that their LIS has to be compatible with a wide variety of EMRs.  This is a significant difficulty for American labs which has spawned another IT business sector: establishing compatibility between laboratory record systems and the different EMRs used multiple providers.

Canada has been going through a similar evolution, though with a few key differences.  All hospital laboratories in Canada are non-profit and rely on public funding.  In some provinces, like Nova Scotia, this has made the coordination of inpatient laboratory services across the province relatively easy.  Similarly, because all lab work is processed in the public system, all of a patient’s results are available through this integrated network. The problem has been linking the hospital labs to family medical practices: a simpler problem than trying to link multiple laboratory systems with multiple providers.  Nova Scotia has been able to set up a structure that allows community providers, as well as hospital services, easy access to all of a patients lab results.  All doctors’ offices have not yet taken advantage of this service, largely because of a lack of resources, but it is operational and waiting to be used.

A second story from the United States talked about the advertizing that laboratories, even in small states like New Hampshire, are doing to attract the business of the new Accountable Care organizations.  Once again Canada is largely spared this problem.  Even in the provinces with for-profit labs providing insured medically necessary services, while there are extra administrative and advertizing costs, they are small compared to the costs in the US.  These two examples from one health care sector go a long way to explain why American per capita health care costs are so much higher than ours, and both are higher than all other OECD countries.

These American examples come from articles in the Dark Daily, an electronic bulletin that provides news, analysis, trends and management innovations for clinical laboratories and pathology groups.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Electronic Health Records, integration, United States

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