Atalan, a technology-enabled clinical partnership, aims to close the gaps in testing by providing high-quality tests and quick turnaround to underserved areas of the U.S.

By Chris Wolski

The COVID-19 pandemic brought two stark realities into clear view: first, clinical labs are a critical component for patient health and treatment, and, second, there are significant gaps in the access to lifesaving tests. A new technology-enabled clinical partnership is aiming to close these gaps by leveraging the assets of university and independent labs to underserved markets.

The partnership, formed by Froedtert Health, Wisconsin Diagnostic Laboratories (WDL), and HealthEco, known as Atalan is specifically designed to bring high-quality testing—which includes cancer diagnostics—to clinicians who may not have experience using it.

Many university labs that made investments in advanced instrumentation during the COVID pandemic have found these solutions idled or underutilized because of the pandemic’s official end. Some were in a scramble to put these solutions to use and justify their expense. And with the public having become more familiar with advanced, high-quality testing—and expecting it to be part of the decision-making process—the need for the technology-enabled clinical partnership was clear, according to Steve Serota, president and chief operating officer of Wisconsin Diagnostic Laboratories.

“Without access to high-quality tests, clinicians lean into sub-optimal testing,” he told CLP during a phone interview. “High quality is not QC. It’s high value. The right test at the right time for the right patient, and making decisions based on these results.”

Technology-Enabled Clinical Testing in a Nutshell

Key to creating the Atalan technology-enabled clinical partnership wasn’t just providing access to high-quality, cutting-edge tests, but having quick turnaround times.

According to Serota, one of the requirements for providing testing is clinically relevant turnaround time for testing.

To do this, Atalan uses a centralized hub that allows clinicians to order a test through their LIS. That order is then routed to a lab that has the capacity to fulfill it. The results are returned through the LIS, making the entire process easy to use and streamlined.

This, of course, brings up a natural question: How does the Atalan network maintain uniform quality from lab to lab?

“We have levels of criteria labs must meet to join the network. This is not an open free for all. These are curated labs that meet a high standard and have a high-value focus,” says Serota.

Having a spiderwebbed network of collaborative labs allows for the quick turnaround that is at the heart of Atalan.

Technology-Enabled Clinical Network as a Business Asset

Serota also argues that Atalan—which launched on Oct. 5, 2023, and will be rolling out formally over the next few months—will provide university-based and independent labs a chance for economic viability in an era of ongoing mergers and acquisitions.

“We see labs being able to grow their business with Atalan,” says Serota. “We don’t want labs closing.”

With the ongoing rollout, Serota says the network will also continue to grow, expanding access to high-quality, advanced laboratory services to fill the gaps in access no matter the cause.

And by closing those gaps, Serota sees a significant benefit to patients.

“With the right intervention at the right time, think what we can avoid,” he says.

Chris Wolski is chief editor of CLP.

Featured Photo: Atalan, a technology-enabled clinical partnership, aims to improve access throughout the U.S. by building a network of university and independent labs. Photo: Atalan