Last week I talked about the recent government proposal to allow patients direct access to their laboratory results. A certain Mild-Mannered Reporter responded to my call for information from the laboratory vendor side and his remarks are worth sharing:
As an IT manager in a commercial lab that services a state where test results may not be released directly to the patient without specific instructions from the ordering provider, we are just now beginning to think about how we will deal with this new requirement. Our entire Laboratory Information System (LIS) is designed to be provider / client oriented, so modifying our lab result delivery processes will not be a trivial effort.
As I read through the rules as written, a number of concerns pop into my head and refuse to leave:
- Many of our lab results are not patient-centric. As there is no universal patient ID and each of our ordering providers may identify a patient differently, we may have a difficult time locating all of Mary Smith’s results.
- How far back do we need to go? There are CAP retention requirements that we abide by, but not everything is kept online forever.
- We have no idea of what the demand will be. A hundred per day or two per month?
- How will we be required to deliver the results? Your comment about utilizing an electronic portal makes sense, but the current wording seems to indicate that it is up to the patient to define how he/she wishes it to be delivered:
Processing a request for a test report, either manually or electronically, would require completion of the following steps: (1) Receipt of the request from the patient; (2) authentication of the identification of the patient; (3) retrieval of test reports; (4) verification of how and where the patient wants the test report to be delivered and provision of the report by mail, fax, e-mail or other electronic means; and (5) documentation of test report issuance.” [Federal Register: September 14, 2011 (Volume 76, Number 178)] page 56722
Interesting in this wording that encryption is not mentioned when specifying e-mail. Looks like more opportunities for labs and others to accidentally violate HIPAA/HITECH by accidentally disclosing to the wrong party.
I suspect that he lion’s share of the costs will be creating new delivery systems, researching the results, and authenticating the patient. None of these costs can be passed on to the patient — only postage and media costs.
We have always run our business to serve the patients, our physician clients, and our insurance payors. It is a delicate balance to keep everyone happy, but if our clients want us to somehow manage a delay result release and the patients demand immediate access, we may be in the proverbial rock and a hard place predicament.
Now I know that there are a number of states that already require that patients have access to their lab results, so I know that this is all doable, but we need to do a lot of planning to meet this new requirement. For now, I think that we will wait for the final rule before making any major changes.
I should also add that for me, this is not really an issue. My primary care doc publishes the important lab values with his comments on a patient portal for me to see. It works just fine because we have a deal – I don’t try to practice medicine and he doesn’t come down to the lab and tell me how to run my shop.
I’ve always been a fan of The Simpsons, and hopefully some of you are familiar with Lisa’s mentor, jazz musician Bleeding Gums Murphy. (I’m a bit disturbed, though, that when I did a Bing search for ‘image bleeding gums murphy’ it also brought up a photo of former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop.)
Hopefully each one of us has had at least one person in his or her life to fulfill that mentor role. I was lucky enough to have my own Bleeding Gums Murphy for more than two decades. He passed away this weekend, and this is the first time I’ve experienced the relatively new cultural phenomenon of grieving via Facebook. A lot of people think of Facebook as a frivolous time-waster (sometimes I don’t disagree) and many cursed it mightily this week for changing too quickly for our liking. But there’s no doubt that social media have the power to bring people together.
We don’t always have the luxury of having our mentors physically close to us, but it’s been heartening over the last few days to know that when my BlackBerry dings there’s a really good chance it’s going to be someone posting a memory to his Wall. Another friend who studied with him said it best: “I will celebrate his life in memory and mourn only those who never met him.”
In the words of Carole King:
When the Jazzman’s testifyin’ a faithless man believes
He can sing you into paradise or bring you to your knees
It’s a gospel kind of feelin’, a touch of Georgia slide
A song of pure revival and a style that’s sanctified.