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How labs can benefit from a more robust medical information delivery system.


Introduction

When one thinks of the healthcare spectrum, after doctors and hospitals, the most important stakeholders in the patient lifecycle are of course, are pathological laboratories. Path labs as they are known are responsible for the confirmation of symptomatic manifestations of an illness through rigourous examination of a patient’s bodily fluids such as blood, bile and urine.


Imagining a medical ecosystem without the invaluable contribution of a laboratory is impossible. If it weren’t for a proper testing and evaluation methodology, several life threatening illnesses would go virtually undetected and worse still, misdiagnosed and incorrectly treated. This makes the contribution of a laboratory indelible and invaluable to the process of treating a patient properly.


Laboratories are businesses that are structured around 3 main verticals. Collection of samples, processing or testing and delivering test results. In a traditional set up all these three processes are taken care of by distinct individuals, who work in close collaboration with each other. Since the laboratory is also a business, there are other stakeholders like Human Resource Development professionals, Administrators and others who also play a key role in the smooth functioning of a laboratory’s everyday functioning.


With a labour intensive, paper based system, a lab can handle limited test orders and the scope for extending its reach is severely constrained to its immediate vicinity. Then there’s also the question of heavy dependence on referrals from doctors and other medical practitioners, which means that lab owners in particular need to be well connected with other medical professionals.


This article seeks to explore the challenges pathological laboratories face in the 21st century and how a stronger medical information delivery system can help simplify, processify and consolidate a lab’s business.


Labs in the 21st century

The field of medicine has made tremendous progress throughout the 2oth and 21st century. This progress has also meant quicker and more accurate diagnostics through more advanced lab processes. Gone are the days when blood reports were prone to human errors and took a long time to process. With newer innovations, especially on the laboratory floors in the form of cutting edge technology and implements, the scope for human error is altogether nullified and the time taken to process samples has drastically reduced.


Challenges for a laboratory business in the 21st century


The 21st century though has brought along with it a rather unique set of challenges. Most of these however have to do with the smooth and optimal running of a lab as a business. The competition in the marketplace, combined with the corporatization of laboratories means that smaller, single location laboratories find it difficult to sustain a profitable practice.


Another major challenge that presents itself to a lab owner today is the problem of optimally managing time between multiple locations. Sometimes a lab owner does not have the time or mindspace to deal with more than a couple of locations, given that it takes him a good amount of time in order to commute between location A and location B.


Paper based records are another significant challenge, especially in emerging markets where internet connectivity is still an issue. In such a situation, a lab is forced to rely on paper based record management system, that is prone to both decay and subject to loss, not to mention takes up volumes of space and is difficult to cross reference and index.


More times than not, a lab owner is a doctor, and approving test reports becomes his prerogative. Even with a quantum of say 20 to 25 reports in a day to be examined and certified, it means that such a workload becomes untenable and therefore unsustainable in the long run. The situation becomes even more acute when a single doctor has laboratories in different locations. Each location will therefore add multiples of work to the administering doctor’s already burgeoning pile of reports.


The question of security is also a major one in this day and age. After all a patient’s test reports are meant to be an intensely private thing. Misuse and disclosure of specially sensitive medical data can be hugely detrimental to the patient’s physical and mental well being. Marketing is probably the single biggest pain point a laboratory owner faces these days. The cost of consumer acquisition following traditional marketing methods is exorbitant and not affordable for smaller laboratories. There is also the question of it being impossible to track one’s return on investment, when it comes to mainline marketing. With nearly all laboratories offering the same gamut of services, often times the only differentiator is price and thus the lab business is also incredibly price sensitive. In such a scenario, it becomes extremely difficult for a laboratory, especially a smaller scale one to actually be able to survive.


What is a medical information delivery system?

In order to understand a medical information delivery system better, it is imperative that we first understand the need for one. In the words of an old adage, “Knowledge is power.” Nowhere does this ring truer than in the medical sphere. Without proper information about a patient, his medical history, testing results, prior records of hospitalization, family history, allergies (food, environmental and medicinal) and other data, it is virtually impossible to treat him properly. This necessitates a system where medical data is shared between the various stakeholders of the medical ecosystem, in a timely, accurate and secure manner.


The medical fraternity is an ecosystem, where one branch depends on the other rather intricately. Without proper testing, proper diagnosis isn’t possible. Without proper diagnosis, proper curative treatment is a misnomer. Therefore one branch of medicine, cannot stand or be relevant without another.


A medical information delivery system therefore is a system of communication between various stakeholders of the medical fraternity, in order to ensure that timely and adequate care is provided to a patient in the most efficient way possible. Imagine therefore a robust communication, sharing, storage, delivery and security platform that will ensure that doctors, laboratories, hospitals and patients are all on the same page, when it comes to diagnosis, treatment both preventative and rehabilitative and care for the patient in question.


All these factors make it near-mandatory for a laboratory to invest in a medical information delivery system.


Why a lab must invest in a medical information delivery system

A medical information delivery system will work only if a proper system of digitization of test results is in place. Therefore most medical information delivery systems come with a module for this purpose already in place. What this means for a laboratory therefore is that its reports needn’t be in paper based hard copy format any longer and therefore a substantial savings in terms of space is a happy by-product of this.


Once a patient’s test reports are digitized, securing them is also a necessity. Therefore a laboratory investing in such a system will look for it to be a robust enough system to ensure that their patients’ records are kept secure. This also means that encryption and other methods will be in place to complete the loop.


While the process of ‘lab work’ is being digitized, a robust medical information delivery system will also provide a lab owner certain tools that will help organize daily tasks for employees, make scheduling tests simpler, organize workflows, get a singular dashboard that tracks work progress, profit and centre management, which means that lab owners now needn’t worry about having to be physically be present at different locations in order to track progress there.


A medical information delivery system also creates with it a network of doctors, hospitals and patients, which is a goldmine for a laboratory for lead generation. In a business where most conversions happen through referrals, it only makes good sense for a lab owner to spread his reach through proper targeted networking. This is one of the most beneficial consequences of a robust medical information delivery system.


Probably the most significant consequence of a medical network is the significant reduction in operating costs, especially in marketing. Marketing tools (inbuilt into the system) help lab owners post a detailed profile of their labs and the services they offer, so that patients and doctors looking for a lab can get in touch. The module also offers lab owners the functionality to custom create offers and packages to send out to their databases and increase the chances of conversion. This system, more or less evens out the playing field, making it possible for smaller labs to offer greater value and augments their reach to even more potential patients.


The benefits of a medical information delivery system to a laboratory, are far reaching and significant, it is therefore easy to see why then a lab must invest in one.


Conclusion

A medical information delivery system makes life infinitely simpler for a lab owner, in that every facet of his business, from administration to testing and from marketing to lead generation are taken care of with minimal fuss. The future of the diagnostics business is intricately connected to the success of a comprehensive medical network and therefore being an early adopter of this technology virtually guarantees the success of a laboratory, vis-a-vis its competitors.