Integrating laboratory medicine into comprehensive patient care represents a new way of thinking for healthcare providers, and Wisconsin Diagnostic Laboratories is leading the charge for widespread adoption.
Not so long ago, laboratory medicine was seen as a necessary cog in the giant mechanism of healthcare. Largely unseen, mostly unsung, laboratorians were hardly perceived as being on the frontlines of patient care, even though their work provided the foundation for physician decisions on the course of treatment. Today, the work of clinical laboratory professionals and pathologists contributes directly to over 70 percent of all clinical decisions.
Established in 2015, Wisconsin Diagnostic Laboratories is an independent, but wholly owned subsidiary of the Milwaukee-based Froedtert Health organization. It was formed to support Froedtert in its efforts to centralize its laboratory functions and to elevate performance such that it is a core competency. Today WDL employs over 500 full-time employees and 56 pathologists performing approximately 7 million tests each year for roughly 30 hospitals, over 200 physician practices, and over 700 long-term care facilities throughout Wisconsin and in the Chicago area.
With a test menu on par with the largest laboratories in the world, WDL is positioned to change the way the healthcare industry views the practice of laboratory medicine.
“We have all board certified pathologist in all subspecialties and our focus is to improve the health of each of the communities we serve through the provision of a unique patient-centered experience focused on the provision of quality laboratory testing and interpretation,” reported company COO Steven Serota.
“We believe laboratory medicine is much more than commoditized results, but rather provides inherent value and actionable data that influences the total care experience of each patient. Pathologists are an integral part of each patient’s care plan both in the lab and by the bedside. Further, they are an active partner with both primary and specialty care physicians, providing insights and analytics based on their broad exposure and experience. This philosophy allows WDL and Froedtert to offer a truly differentiated care experience for our patients.”
Pathologists and laboratorians are among the most important core members of a fully integrated care team. Not only do they have a comprehensive understanding of the way the tests are run, but they also have a full understanding of the implications of the results and their impact on patient care.
“We’ve moved away from the 1990s model of keeping pathologists and laboratorians in the basement with no windows (a metaphor for no patient contact), and really work to integrate them at the bedside where they can help the patient,” he stressed. WDL’s customer service department was developed to ensure that pathologists are immediately available for live contact with patients, pharmacists, and providers, which is still a revolutionary idea in the wider healthcare ecosystem.
Viewing clinical laboratory testing as part of patient care rather than a commodity is another innovative differentiation point for WDL. “We are standing at the precipice of a fundamental paradigm shift when it comes to the incorporation of laboratory medicine into the larger landscape of healthcare,” he declared, adding that given the challenges existing in today’s marketplace, an industry-wide reevaluation of the model of care is a necessity.
“Laboratories are tremendous repositories of data that, through appropriate analytics, can be used to direct appropriate care to patients in a way that really has never been done before. By ensuring we provide the right tests, at the right time, for the right patient, and for the right reason, we're able to provide an incredible insights to the clinician to enable comprehensive care planning. This will help ensure we're optimizing patient care and the care experience, as well as lay a foundation for longitudinal patient care management.”
Laboratory medicine has an essential role beyond influencing treatment at the moment care is needed. Integrated lab testing can and should play a key role in public or community health as well. Its role in longitudinal health is emerging. “The utilization of laboratory medicine with all of the data that we generate can be absolutely integrated to create a model that not only allows us to predict when individuals will experience certain conditions, but to better manage chronic conditions as they exist,” Serota explained.
By being an integral part of a continuum of care, the WDL model can lower the total cost of care over a patient’s lifetime and also improve outcomes and the patient experience. This can be achieved by focusing on improving how, when, and where patients receive care and specifically what intervention providers utilize.
In 2018, global healthcare pioneer Roche designated WDL as a Roche Molecular Center of Excellence. According to the firm, “Roche’s MCOE network enables non-competing regional laboratories across the US to collaborate and capitalize on scientific knowledge in molecular testing and, in turn, help accelerate the advancement of new test methods and technology.”
This partnership with Roche developed naturally as WDL continued to develop their own pioneering value proposition to improve patient care in the communities it serves. Roche became an important corporate partner because they shared the vision and could provide expertise and cutting edge diagnostic technology.
When describing the alliance Serota commented, “We are very patient-centric, they are very customer-focused, and in the end we share a driving passion for providing optimal outcomes for our patient.”
He continued, “We as an organization, through our proven commitment to patient care, will leave no stone unturned when it comes to development and innovation.
“We recognize that labs of today are not the labs of yesterday, and that appropriate utilization of laboratory medicine is fundamentally critical to overall patient success. Laboratorians stand at the tip of the spear when it comes to patient centric care, not only are we incredibly well-positioned to be the stewards of insights generated within our labs, but ultimately act as advocates of appropriate care planning for every patient we serve.”
Wisconsin Diagnostic Laboratories, located in Milwaukee, is a full-service clinical laboratory servicing physicians and patients throughout Wisconsin and the Chicagoland area.