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Debating the Proposed CLIA Rule

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, September 26, 2011

At least one national lab, Quest Diagnositcs, is also in favor of the rule.

"Patient engagement in healthcare decision making is vital to promoting better health outcomes and reduced costs in our healthcare system," Surya N. Mohapatra, Quest's chairman and chief executive officer said in a statement. "HHS's proposed rule will help to empower patients to understand their health condition and discuss their healthcare options more constructively with their physicians."

Cost considerations

But it's not as simple as it sounds, Bernard Emkes, MD, medical director managed care services at St Vincent Health in Indianapolis, said in an interview. For starters, there's the question of whether labs have the right technology to meet the demand and what the rule would cost labs and, by extension, consumers.

"The lab has pretty good structures in place to get a lab results to my office. But they don't have anything in place to get a lab result to an individual patient's home phone number," Emkes said. "There's going to be a huge infrastructure cost for having the lab provide that directly to patients."

Leiter contends that the move would save money by reducing duplicate tests after results go missing and by improving quality of care.

"Any time we can empower patients with information and get them more active and involved in their care, the resulting stronger partnership between patients and their care team will in the end reduce costs. Patients who are engaged and getting the care they need and want means better management of healthcare and healthcare service and more effective and efficient patient care," she said.

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