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Instant messaging, smartphones, and video chat are all used everyday and now they are entering the health care delivery system. Gone are the days when physicians were the gatekeepers to all medical information - these advancements will forever alter the patient-physician relationship. And now patients increasingly expect not only access to their own health data, but also the ability to be connected to an electronically-driven health care system.

Here's what labs need to keep in mind when dealing with patients becoming more involved in their own medical care:

  • Focus on Care Coordination: Health care service providers are under pressure to improve the efficiency of care through better electronic information-sharing and coordination of care. One of the proposed Stage 3 meaningful use recommendations requires providers to electronically accept patient-generated health information. With advances in wireless technologies making continuous data capture and monitoring possible, patients will increasingly be responsible for monitoring their chronic conditions and uploading medical device data generated at home into their physician's EHR, thus shortening feedback loops, better informing decision-making, and improving care.
  • Physician-Initiated Engagement Campaigns: Technologies that can improve productivity and strengthen patient relationships while requiring less physician involvement hold the greatest potential for adoption. While already included in both Stage 2 and Stage 3 of meaningful use, physicians are exploring the use of text messages and e-mails to both provide educational materials to patients in their care as well as offering reminders for follow-up care, including laboratory testing and preventative screenings. According to a recent study evaluating the impact of opening physicians' electronic notes to patients, nearly 90% of participating patients said that they could more easily understand their medical issues, better remember their treatment plans, better prepare for future visits, and that they felt an increased sense of control by viewing medical notes online.
  • Allowing Patients Direct Access to Laboratory Results: The days of “no news is good news” in which a physician promises to contact a patient if the results are abnormal are over. In September 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services proposed amending the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 regulations to allow patients direct access to laboratory test results. While the impact of this decision on laboratories is not yet completely understood, labs must still remain focused on consistent turnaround times, proactive communication to providers, and accurate billing processes, all of which influence both patient and provider satisfaction.
  • In healthcare, electronic communication technologies hold the promise of enhancing patient engagement and improving the efficiency of care. As physicians explore how to incorporate these communication strategies into their routine workflow, laboratories will be called upon both through regulatory means and through strategic partnerships with providers to play a role in facilitating easy access to laboratory results and necessary follow-up testing. At the same time, the strength of a lab’s relationship will be strongly influenced by the intelligence it generates and delivers to clients.

    How is your lab interacting directly with patients? Call 317-219-4646 or email info@hc1.com today!

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