It’s easy to forget or even be unaware that laboratories are a crucial cog in personalized medicine. Obviously they run the diagnostic tests that determine which treatment will suit a patient, and they may also develop these tests, but their influence becomes clear when we recognise that they also connect with physicians at the laboratory-physician interface (LPI).
The LPI is a primary and untapped channel of education, information and data flow. It is recognised as having the highest volume of medical transactions within the healthcare system today with thousands of daily transactions and hours of highly-trusted two-way communication between US therapy prescribers and testing labs. It has a disproportionate role in driving clinical decision-making and the potential to improve test adoption.
This is because when a test works and the result is easy to interpret then a doctor is more likely to reach for this test again over another test that may cause more difficulties. The net result from confidence around the testing and results process is increased test adoption. But surely if a test needs to be run the doctor will use it? Not always, and this is where the lab and its improving connections with physicians can really make an impact.
When pharma understands and values the laboratory as a key stakeholder it can actively support and develop its role. Specific LPI platforms (mechanisms, usually web-based) can support the test ordering and reporting process and provide physicians with information such as access to laboratory testing. They also have the potential to:
Laboratories without dedicated platforms can still strengthen that link and trust with physicians with a simple approach to reporting. A graphical and numerical presentation of results is much easier to interpret and could incorporate current standard of care guidelines that enable physicians to give high quality care based on clear results. Physicians will stop using a test if they find the ordering or reporting process too complex, so it makes sense to address something that seems relatively basic.
But labs are coming into their own as physicians explore direct contact around results reporting and follow on treatment in a relationship that is becoming increasingly important. Leveraging this dynamic in combination with the specialist knowledge found in the labs and the LPI, could ensure faster adoption of the personalized medicine solution.
So when we contemplate the future of personalized medicine, laboratories should rank much higher up the list of important stakeholders and jump to mind much more quickly when we look for new opportunities.