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August 1, 2018 | Lab • Laboratory • Value-Based Care
Laboratories play an important role in health care because they can help your provider confirm a diagnosis, screen for diseases, monitor organ functions and more. However, lab tests can be expensive. Here’s what you should consider to save money on your lab costs.
The majority of medical decisions are affected by lab testing, yet the cost of lab services differs depending on where the test is done. One way to save money is to find a lab that offers the best price. Typically, lab testing done in a hospital is much more expensive than lab testing at outpatient centers, and even outpatient centers vary in price. Ask for price transparency from lab services near you to make the most cost-effective decision.
Labs offer thousands of different tests, so patients should discuss their concerns and symptoms with their healthcare provider and decide together which tests are truly necessary. Providers can help narrow down the tests that would be most beneficial and help patients avoid unnecessary screenings.
Every person’s “normal” is slightly different than the next, and some patients’ lab results will show an abnormal result even if there isn’t anything wrong. A normal range includes the middle 95 percent of results from a population of healthy people. That leaves 5 percent of still healthy people outside of the “normal” range.
The chance of getting an abnormal lab result increases with more lab tests, and abnormal tests results can lead to further testing, anxiety about your health and unnecessary treatments, which increase healthcare costs. The best way to avoid this is to get only the necessary lab tests recommended by a healthcare provider.
Excessive testing can be dangerous depending on patient circumstances. Patients who are sick may not replace blood cells as quickly as someone who is healthy, so drawing large amounts of blood for multiple tests may lead to a depletion of blood or other complications. Working with educated healthcare providers can help determine which tests are appropriate for sick patients and help avoid any additional spending.
Another option to help save money is using a patient portal. Patient portals are an online tool that keeps track of personal healthcare information like doctor visit summaries, prescriptions, test results and more. Using a patient portal is beneficial because it allows patients, no matter where they are, to access their lab test results (and the rest of their health record), share it with other providers who do not have access to that same record, and avoid getting the same test twice.
If you have questions or concerns about your lab results or the cost of laboratory testing, contact your doctor.
“Understanding Lab Test Results.” Kaiser Permanente. https://wa.kaiserpermanente.org/kbase/topic.jhtml?docId=zp3409#zp3415
“Healthcare Costs: It Matters Which Lab You Choose.” Quest Diagnostics. http://blog.questdiagnostics.com/2016/07/quest-saves-massachusetts-on-health-care-costs/
“Patient Portals – An Online Tool for Your Health.” MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000880.htm
“Lab Tests: Get Everything You Need but no More.” Yale Medicine. https://www.yalemedicine.org/stories/avoid-unnecessary-lab-tests/
The Live Better Team
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.