Physician Follow-ups: What they are and why your company needs them
In our last article, we highlighted the complexity of setting up your own Lab Testing Operations, including the need to partner with a clinical physician network for pre-test order review and post-test results. In this article, we are diving deeper into why physician follow-ups are so important for digital health companies and their patients.
In our last article, we highlighted the complexity of setting up your own Lab Testing Operations, including the need to partner with a clinical physician network to create lab orders and post-test results.
In this article, we are diving deeper into why physician follow-ups are so important for digital health companies and their patients when receiving lab work.
What is a Physician Follow-up
Physician follow-ups refer to a physician’s review, communication, and management of a patient’s lab order results following a lab test.
When do physicians provide follow-ups?
For digital health companies/direct-to-consumer health companies leveraging consumer-directed testing, physicians will typically only contact the patient if their results have abnormalities or reach critical values above the lab reference ranges, as well as their patient history.
What are the benefits?
Follow-ups provide an opportunity to discuss the results of lab tests with patients and ensure appropriate actions are taken. This is particularly important for digital health companies operating in spaces where patients require more frequent lab tests e.g. gender-affirming therapy, fertility care, chronic disease management, such as diabetes or cardiovascular conditions.
So why are they so important?
1. Gaining a clinically sound perspective
Whether they are assessing results from blood tests or urine/stool samples, a physician’s medical training means they are best positioned to interpret results with accuracy and contextualize them within a patient’s health history. Given some direct-to-consumer companies don’t have internal clinical teams to provide more guidance on test results - the role of the physician follow-up is even more crucial. For example, if you do a lipid panel via blood test, and your HDLs are critical patients won't know the best course of action, but a medical professional will know how to advise and provide a clinically sound perspective on your lab work.
2. Potential Risks of Self-Interpretation of Test Results
With the growing popularity of Direct Access Testing (DAT) via at-home test kits, more and more people have been empowered to order tests for themselves. Whilst consumers in 37 US states can enjoy the agency, convenience, and time-saved skipping initial and post-results consultations (note physicians only approve tests that align with a patient’s history), physician follow-ups ensure patients aren’t self-interpreting results and further adding complications to their health.
3. Continuity of Care
Physicians have a crucial role in monitoring and evaluating a patient's response to treatment. They can suggest further tests, especially when a patient adjusts their medication dosage. Patients are encouraged to address concerns about their results and this promotes open communication and ensures their needs are effectively met.
Furthermore, physicians actively encourage patients to discuss any concerns they may have regarding their test results. This fosters a supportive and communicative environment, where patients feel empowered to express their questions and apprehensions. By addressing these concerns, physicians can provide clarity, alleviate worries, and collaboratively develop a plan of action that best suits the patient's needs.
Overall, this patient-centered approach allows physicians to effectively track treatment progress, make informed decisions, and promote a sense of trust and partnership between healthcare providers and patients.
What are the implications of NOT having a Physician Network?
Ensure you meet legal requirements
If you are looking to order lab tests across multiple US states, the legal requirements for physician coverage vary for each state you operate in. This becomes difficult to manage if you are an online lab or a local lab looking to service patients in multiple states. With the increase in the availability of blood work and lab tests online, bypassing these protocols could increase the likelihood of your consumers not receiving adequate coverage.
Reliable physician follow-ups are not only reflective of quality patient care but also of strong patient support in the ever-more competitive digital health market. Those companies without their internal care teams must take extra precautions.
Overall, the cost of inaction i.e. a critical result not being flagged is far more detrimental, breaking consumer trust, and brand reliability and opening the door to potential lawsuits from health regulators.
What are alternatives if you want to do laboratory testing?
1. Integrate with non-modern APIs for lab orders
Work with a legacy provider, that requires you to deal with outdated integrations. This will leave you piecing together multiple APIs to achieve a singular goal of ordering a lab test. Before you know it you'll need an integration with a lab, an integration with a physician provider, as well as handling compliance overhead.
2. Partner with Vital for laboratory testing for an E2E solution
At Vital, we’ve built a physician-of-record API for lab testing. Using our modern HIPAA-compliant API, with built-in webhooks, and easy debugging, clients have the ability to make one API call to manage provider follow-ups, lab tests across three modalities, and retrieving results in JSON, PDF, or HL7.