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Inside the Lab Precision medicine, Profession

Precision Medicine and the Patient Journey

If ever there was a misconception about the laboratory, it’s that our job ends when a test result goes out the door. That couldn’t be further from the truth; in fact, the moment a test result leaves the laboratory is the moment our job as pathologists and medical laboratory scientists truly begins.

As healthcare has moved from volume- to value-based care over the past decade, it has become increasingly vital that our profession step out from within the four walls of the laboratory and take on a more involved role in patient care. This evolution of healthcare has also driven the rise of precision medicine, which provides the perfect opportunity for pathologists and medical laboratory scientists to step into a more visible role. And, as precision medicine continues to expand, the role of the laboratory will become ever more vital to patient care.

Without that input from the laboratory, clinicians can only make educated guesses at what might be best for patients.

At a high level, precision medicine is challenging the idea that patient care is one-size-fits-all. Just as no two patients are alike, neither should two treatment plans be the same. On a more in-depth level, precision medicine is taking the knowledge, skill, and expertise that pathologists and medical laboratory scientists employ on a daily basis to detail what a diagnosis truly means for a given patient and how it will impact their treatment. That knowledge is exactly what clinicians need to tailor a care plan for each one of their patients. Without that input from the laboratory, clinicians can only make educated guesses at what might be best for patients.

The American Society for Clinical Pathology has patients at the heart of its mission. We continually evaluate what more we can do for patients, how our programs benefit patients, or how a new initiative will improve patient care. And isn’t that the ultimate driving force behind the rise of precision medicine – to improve patient care? We know that the laboratory’s role is not over when a test result goes out the door. We understand that we are a part of a much bigger journey. A test result is not just words and numbers on a chart; it is the starting point on a person’s roadmap to recovery.

Keeping the patient at the forefront of our work in the laboratory is vital. It is what will push precision medicine forward and improve outcomes for patients overall. As pathologists and medical laboratory scientists, we are the beginning and the end of a patient’s healthcare journey. Understanding and embodying that truth is what will strengthen the laboratory’s role in healthcare and allow precision medicine to reach its full potential.

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About the Author

E. Blair Holladay

CEO of the American Society for Clinical Pathology

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