The Dark Daily recently discussed the accelerated pace of patient service center (PSC) development by Quest and LabCorp (see: Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp Ink Deals to Put Patient Services Centers in Grocery Stores and Retail Pharmacies, But Not for the Same Reasons as Theranos). This trend started in Arizona and California in relationship to Theranos' ill-fated expansion but is now spreading to other states. Below is an excerpt from the article:
Greater use of retail stores as the location for patient services centers (PSCs) may be an important new trend for the clinical laboratory industry. That’s because, historically, medical laboratories placed most of their patient service centers in hospital campuses or near medical office buildings. However, in recent months, both of the nation’s billion-dollar lab companies signed deals with national retailers to put patient service centers in their stores. Dark Daily believes that the motivation for a lab company to put a PSC into a grocery store or retail pharmacy is to make it easier and more convenient for a patient to get their specimen collected at a location that is closer to their home or office. In other words, it is faster for the patient to get to their nearest grocery store for a blood draw than to travel to the hospital campus in their community.
I would like to dwell here on the strategic implications of this expanding number of PSCs by the two large national reference labs. Much of their lab testing business is generated in private physician offices and clinics. Blood draws are performed on the premises with samples then picked up by reference lab couriers and transported to large regional labs with test results transmitted back to the physician offices electronically. Patients are also directed to PSCs for their blood draws. A counterbalance to these large reference labs are the large health systems and academic medical centers. They will increasingly dominate the healthcare scene given that the majority of young physicians are choosing hospital and salaried positions and physicians in private practice are a shrinking breed. These systems/hospitals always run their own labs and only outsource super-esoteric tests that are too rare or complicated to perform in-house.
Patients with insurance who are cared for by hospital physicians will always always opt to have their blood draws and lab testing performed in the ambulatory care setting where they are cared for in part because their test results are quickly available in the EHRs. Such patients constitute a kind of captive audience for whom the number or location of Quest or LabCorp PSCs in their local area is largely irrelevant. However, it's my personal opinion that a substantial percentage of ambulatory care will be delivered via telemedicine during the next decade with patients remaining in their own living rooms (see: Treatment of Patients with Chronic Diseases: Important for the Future of Telemedicine; A New Perspective on Telemedicine: Patient Visits with Multiple Providers; Major Impending Transformation Predicted for Clinical Lab Business Model). If lab testing is required for such telemedicine patients, many may opt to travel to the most convenient blood drawing site rather than fight for a parking space at a large hospitals or ambulatory care center. In short, the large national reference labs with their abundant PSCs may become a more attractive option in the near future for health system patients.