On Tuesday, February 17, President Barack Obama signed the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, providing billions in new health care spending. The effects of this bill on the clinical lab market will be multifaceted and play out over the coming months and years. But several areas seem poised for change.

First, an increase in the Medicaid matching rate for the states should result in more people entering and remaining within the heath care system. It will also, one can hope, translate into higher levels of reimbursement for labs and render reimbursement easier to obtain. That’s good news for all in the industry and, most importantly, for patients.

The stimulus package also provides for approximately $20 billion for health information technology, including electronic medical records (EMRs) to prevent medical errors, provide better care and access to patients, and introduce cost-saving efficiencies. The bill calls for the utilization of an electronic health record (EHR) for every American in the United States by 2014. This appropriation should be felt relatively quickly as it impacts on EMRs; labs and hospitals have been working toward seamless integration of lab results and physician’s records for some time, which is likely to accelerate.

How quickly will this happen, and what type of help will be available in the way of dollars to hospital systems, labs, and IT developers? This remains to be seen, but look to CLP to be covering this issue regularly. In this issue, associate editor Stephen Noonoo reports on the impressive success of Salt Lake City’s Intermountain Healthcare in implementing integration of lab information systems and EMRs among 20 hospitals and more than 100 clinics.

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The Recovery Act also provides funding for preventive care and evaluation of treatment efficacy. This includes approximately $1 billion to study comparisons of drugs and medical devices for specific conditions. President Obama has a record of support for a personalized medicine approach to health care, so one hopes the outcome of these studies will spur development of truly effective pharmacogenetic approaches and not mere cost-containment procedures. The industry will be watching closely to see how comparison studies are structured and carried out.

Lastly, the influx of promised funds into the National Institutes of Health will also be good news for clinical diagnostics, as it should lead to new technologies, biomarkers, and trained personnel. This will play out over the longer term. As always, I welcome your thoughts on the stimulus package and other issues affecting clinical labs.

Suzanne Clancy, PhD
editor, CLP

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