How in-house labs generate revenue and differentiate physician office care settings: Q&A with Medline’s Doug Sharpe
By Medline Newsroom Staff | October 18, 2021
The in-house labs in physician offices moved to the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic. Doug Sharpe, a 25-year healthcare industry veteran, serves as Medline’s vice president of Lab Capital, managing a team of 13 laba specialists who serve the needs of acute care and non-acute care labs with CLIA waived, moderately and highly complex lab products.
As COVID-19 reduced U.S. life expectancy across populations to levels not seen since World War II, in part due to reduced access to healthcare. Medline’s Newsroom staff caught up with Sharpe to ask him a few questions about the role physician offices play in expanding access to care and the impact of bringing lab testing into the physician office setting.
Medline Newsroom: Can you briefly describe Medline Lab Capital?
Sharpe: Our team at Medline Lab Capital assists our customers across the continuum of care with knowledge of lab products, including CLIA Waived, Moderately Complex, and Highly Complex lab products. Ultimately, we help customers make decisions that improve patient care. We do this by helping our partners evaluate their lab testing needs and analyze what options they have available to them.
Medline Newsroom: It sounds like you have a wide range of responsibilities to your partners. What are you seeing in the physician office market with regards to the need for lab services?
Sharpe: COVID shook up the market and changed the healthcare landscape creating a new operating environment. While the pandemic has impacted us all in many ways, the growth of technology coupled with more investment from private and public entities are poised to be a game-changer.
Telemedicine is one example that is changing how medicine is practiced while giving clinicians additional tools to monitor patients with chronic diseases. This profound change in diagnostics is driving change in the lab space: The traditional relationship with the patient is being reimagined with testing going directly to the patient or lab.
There’s also the revenue component. With CMS revenue declining on some items, revenue management for physician offices is becoming more important. At the same time, physician offices are facing an increase in demand as value based payment models incentivize a shift to lower-cost care settings that fit the needs of changing patient demographics that seek greater flexibility.
Medline Newsroom: What would you consider the biggest benefit of bringing lab in-house and how does lab improve physician practice services?
Sharpe: A significant benefit of doing onsite lab testing is that it makes it a lot easier for a physician to look a patient in the eye and provide guidance during the same visit. There’s also a revenue component. Medicare continues to lower reimbursements on a majority of the services that physicians offer. If today physicians are sending their lab tests out to a reference lab, the outside lab is capturing that revenue and not the physician practice. And if a sample is lost, additional challenges can arise.
Also, providers who wait for lab results to be returned must successfully reach the patient again with the results, which is made all the more complicated because of HIPAA requirements. There’s a lot of inefficiency in that for the clinician and the patient which can be minimized with in-house labs.
Looking at physician offices, we know that the millennials are their largest patient population, and 22% of Americans are millennials. Through surveys, we know that the number one reason millennials switch physicians is because they can’t get immediate access to results. If I’m a practitioner, I would think about bringing some tests into my facility today that could give patients immediate results.
Learn more about how Medline supports physician offices.