The Impact EMR's Have on The Laboratory Business

While Electronic Medical Record (EMR) software are being adopted by almost all medical practices across the county, its counter part – laboratories are being affected negatively. The US Government has mandated the implementation of full digital health records by 2014. So this means that all hospitals, and private practices should be running under either EHR (for hospitals) or EMR (practices). Many of these health care institutions have already made the switch or are currently in the process of doing so. Laboratories are the information processing center’s for the results and value’s for these health care institutions and their patients. The technology for these two entities need to be in sync for the sake of patient care, efficiency and completeness. Unfortunately the Laboratories are left behind and have not made the switch over to electronic Laboratory Information Systems (LIS) that support this “sync” or “interface”; the proper term being HL7 interface

Regardless of the size of your practice, every practice is in a position to receive a financial backing from either the US Government or its counter part- the laboratory. It is needless to mention the obvious advantages of an EMR for a practice and the practice may enjoy many of the benefits that an EMR may provide but it can not be considered a replacement of continuous diagnostic need for comprehensive patient care, because it is not. All these EMR benefits/advantages for a medical practice are paid by either the US Government or the laboratory providing the diagnostic service to the practice. With the exception of a few large sized laboratories, all small to medium sized labs are losing business every day because of their inability to stay up to date with the technology required to service a practice equipped with an EMR.

I think a bit deeper of an analysis will explain, understand and take the situation and scenario of a small laboratory: Lets consider a small sized laboratory running 500 to 600 specimens daily, servicing a group practice of 3-4 physicians. The Laboratory, in a very conventional way comes across a situation where her loyal client (the practice) decides to get an EMR to improve her practice. If the laboratory intends to keep that business, the laboratory would pay 80% of the EMR’s cost to get the EMR for her client, and would pay around $ 5,000 to $ 8,000 to the EMR vendor for an interface setup and finally around $ 5,000 to $ 8,000 to the Lab Software vendor to implement the interface. If the laboratory has enough resources, then the laboratory can keep the business of her loyal customer
otherwise any large laboratory with resources will take the business away from the small laboratory. Most small laboratories are losing business because of lack of their resources.

Even if the practice is unable to manage to receive the 80% of her EMR’s cost from the laboratory, alternatively the US Government will pay for the EMR. A smaller to medium sized laboratory has no way out of spending $ 10,000 to $ $ 16,000 in order to keep her client’s business. I don’t know of any and wish there was a justification to leave laboratories with while the funding of the medical community for EMR’s continues.

Laboratory information systems (LIS) that interfaces with EMR’s are inevitably going to be implemented. Unfortunately the two entities are not on the same timeline, as EMR’s are way ahead. This may cause for serious problems in the management of patients and their care, and ofcourse the Laboratorie’s business and it’s ability to stay up to date with the changes in technology and the mandates of the US Government.