How Clinical Labs, Phlebotomists, and Urgent Care Centers Support Healthcare
The United States healthcare system can be pretty complex involving many different players. According to an article by Mahesh Vellanki, there are four main constituents that make up our health system:
- Patients: individuals who receive medical care from providers
- Providers: institutions that provide care to patients, charge payers for that care, and buy more products from vendors
- Payers: institutions that pay providers for healthcare services, which includes insurance carriers, private employers, the government, and also individuals
- Vendors: corporations that sell medical devices, pharmaceutical products, services, and solutions to providers
As Vellanki says, these four groups are the tent poles that define the healthcare industry, but there are other important constituents as well. So what impact do other important players, such as clinical labs, phlebotomists, and urgent care centers have on healthcare?
Clinical labs have been impacted in a variety of ways over the past couple of years. Reimbursement changes have been drastically cut due to the implementation of the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 (PAMA), which affects all labs in different ways.
In a 2019 article by Kathleen Swanson, she mentions that the US healthcare system is switching from sick care to well care by providing meaningful interpretation of the clinical laboratory data. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench in that transition, but also may have expedited the process as people are more interested in and aware of clinical testing. With this increased emphasis on testing and getting results, clinical labs can help “optimize the diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring of patients while improving outcomes” according to Swanson.
For the past year and a half, the lab world has been laser-focused on COVID and how they can offer tests to patients. By shifting their focus to COVID tests, these labs could cater to the “worried well” and offer diagnostic testing to show if a patient had COVID-19. Given the severity of the pandemic and how the disease is contracted, whenever someone had a scratch in their throat they may have been worried about having COVID and wanted to get tested. Now that the pandemic seems to be under control and the world is returning to some sense of normalcy, clinical labs can get back to their normal business and offer more regular tests and panels.
This population of individuals deemed “worried well” are likely to continue their interest in testing because they are now more aware of their health. Clinical labs play a major role in healthcare as their test offerings can help paint a picture of a patient’s health status and provide an actionable plan for improving it.
Clinical labs may have the intellectual property to test for certain diseases or ailments but without access to the specimens that is all they have. In order to collect the necessary specimens for testing, labs rely on phlebotomists.
Many roles in healthcare may be trained in phlebotomy (nurses, medical assistants, etc.), but there are also phlebotomist technicians who spend their days drawing and testing blood. Because their work is diagnostic in nature, phlebotomy technicians are considered allied health professionals.
Per the Association of Schools of Allied Health Professionals, these professionals are “a segment of the workforce that delivers services involving the identification, evaluation and prevention of diseases and disorders, dietary and nutrition services and rehabilitation and health systems management.” Allied health professionals make up nearly 60% of the workforce in the healthcare industry.
Without phlebotomy and phlebotomists, there would be no clinical labs. Phlebotomists are the bridge between clinical labs and patients.
Urgent Care Centers and Walk-In Clinics
Urgent cares and walk-in clinics have become popular, less expensive options for patients in need of healthcare. The number of these facilities in the United States has grown rapidly over the last couple of years and urgent care centers have become a more legitimate option for patients.
Contrary to popular belief, an urgent care and walk-in clinic are not the same, but they both provide important services to patients. A walk-in clinic usually provides acute services to address immediate patient needs whereas an urgent care provides comprehensive services. Urgent care facilities usually incorporate a walk-in component as a way for patients to access the care they need.
These facilities that currently have the skilled labor to perform blood draws and specimen collections in place can join our MAP: Medical Access Point™ Network. As a MAP, these facilities can promote their other services, earn revenue from their existing labor, and connect with specialty labs on the MOMS network to expand their testing capabilities.
As demographic needs change, the healthcare system must follow suit. Younger patients and adults now live in a society filled with instant gratification. The traditional ways of receiving medical care can be a long process, whereas going to an urgent care is much quicker.
According to the Urgent Care Association, “urgent care centers play an increasingly vital role in the continuum of care, providing services for a wide array of patients who may be unable to see a primary care physician for various reasons, including simply not yet affiliating with one.”
Learn more about MOMS and join the network today.
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