The rise of direct-to-consumer advertising partnered with recent changes in the healthcare landscape has left consumers taking more control. From choosing which hospitals to visit, to inquiring about specific drugs and tests, consumers are playing a more active role than ever in their health.
It is a shift that has left many in the industry skeptical. But with no end in sight to the rise of consumerism, it is up to every department to adapt to this new reality or get left behind.
So, what does all of this mean for the lab? It means a new opportunity to adapt and innovate in order to meet changing patient needs. Below we examine 3 ways laboratorians can start helping their institutions thrive in this new era of healthcare consumerism.
As direct-to-consumer advertising increased, more and more patients began asking for tests by name. Acting as consultants to physicians is a large opportunity for laboratorians to help weed out unnecessary testing.
For example, there has been a lot of media coverage and advertising around BRCA testing. Undergoing this type of genetic testing is a smart decision for women with a family history of the mutation or a history of breast/ovarian cancer, but recently there has been a spike in testing of low-risk women.
By partnering more closely with physicians, laboratorians can help reduce the number of costly, superfluous tests. This can be done through on-going physician education, joining rounds or acting as consultants on test orders. By opening the lines of communication earlier in the process, laboratorians have the unique opportunity to share their expertise and in return, avoid unnecessary testing.
Everyone's saying, learn your cholesterol levels, learn your glucose levels, take charge of your health, be more proactive, prevent things from happening before you end up in the emergency room.
Medical Director, Clinical Chemistry
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
As the consumerism trend continues, more patients are taking a deeper interest in their personal health and wellbeing. While this is a positive change, especially in a population health era, there is still a limit to how much patients can understand without formal medical training.
Many patients know they should be monitoring certain levels, but they may not know the direct impact of a test or its result. In this case, laboratorians and physicians have a unique opportunity to act as translators.
So, as lab professionals, we don't necessarily think about the wording we use. I wouldn't say dumbing down the result, but certainly writing it or saying it in a simple manner that's understandable by a layperson.
Chair, Clinical Practice Quality
Whether a physician or a laboratorian, it’s critical to remember how to translate information for a patient.
Another trend that has come along with consumerism is a desire from patient to access their own data.
Typically, a patient would make another appointment with a physician to hear their test results, or wait several hours until a physician had time to meet with them. The constraints of appointments and relying on a physician to hand deliver results no-longer meet the needs of patients in this new healthcare landscape.
To combat this, some institutions have begun implementing patient portals. These web-based systems allow patients to login through a secure platform to view their results and access their data.
By working with your organization to establish this type of solution, you can provide patients with the access they need while freeing up physicians’ valuable time.
The shift towards consumer-driven healthcare is in full swing. Patients are more empowered to take control of their health and institutions have no choice but to innovate or fall behind. By providing personalized care and leveraging new technology, you can help your organization thrive in this new environment.
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