Why patient engagement and cost transparency are vital to the future of the diagnostic lab

October 14, 2019
Business Affairs Pathology
By Lâle White and Jane Hermansen

Consumerism is not a new concept. In fact, it seems rather intuitive that most people like to know what they are buying, and for exactly how much, so they can weigh their purchasing options. However, this isn’t the case in the healthcare industry. Patients are often not sure what they will end up owing after a visit to the doctor or hospital, and on top of that, usually do not leave with much tangible or actionable information to take with them.

While this uptick of consumerism has been much slower than in other industries, it is at last starting to permeate healthcare and is beginning to evolve the way patients engage with their providers and their own health information. Patients are becoming more empowered when deciding how and where they receive healthcare services and are also starting to demand more information about their own cost responsibility. Surprise billing is a great example of this. Surprise billing is when patients receive charges after getting care from a doctor or hospital not in their insurance network (unbeknownst to them). Consumers and legislators are becoming more vocal in regard to this issue. In fact, a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that nearly eight in 10 Americans support legislation to protect people from surprise medical bills.

As these expectations become more popular in healthcare as a whole, consumerism is also beginning to reach the diagnostic laboratory industry specifically. While this is a space that has traditionally been non-patient-facing, labs must be ready to adapt to the changing healthcare landscape to remain successful — and this means improving patient engagement and cost transparency. By combining technology innovation and information-sharing strategies, labs can make an impact in these areas.

Three ways to improve cost transparency and patient engagement
More financial burden is being transferred to patients now more than ever before. For example, more and more patients are footing the bill for services due to increases in things like changing coinsurance ratios, increasing bad debt write-offs and high deductible plans. It therefore becomes quite clear that more effort must be made to educate patients, as well as to proactively communicate with them about the diagnostic services that are being performed before they receive a bill they may otherwise not expect. By adopting the following technology and information-sharing techniques, the lab industry can help improve cost transparency and patient engagement.

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