COLA, the largest private accreditor of medical laboratories serving more than 8,000 across the U.S., successfully concluded its 2014 Leadership Summit in April. More than 30 thought leaders in health care, including physicians, regulators, public health experts, medical laboratory scientists, manufacturers, nurse practitioners and more gathered in San Francisco to discuss the future of laboratory medicine in the context of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The group explored the implications of the dynamics of ACA and changing payment policies on quality and learning in laboratory medicine. Lab medicine is critical to patient care; more than 70 percent of medical decisions are based on lab data. Dr. Paul Tang, Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation and the Summit’s keynote speaker, outlined a full range of challenges in healthcare and his hopes for the future. Dr. Tang noted that “laboratory science is a huge part of the digital infrastructure. You can further help physicians by leveraging the data in the electronic health record systems to interpret the test results within the unique context of the patient.” He concluded, “We must be proactive about the future of laboratory medicine. By leveraging the power of data, we have the opportunity to capture and track patient outcomes, and to build feedback loops in a way that supports a culture of learning in healthcare.” Participants engaged in smaller multi-disciplinary groups around central questions to explore the current state of laboratory medicine, including a case study of California. The group also explored a possible future direction related to the true value of laboratory medicine within healthcare and their vision for continuous quality and learning. Finally, the group explored possible action items to close the gap. Among the topics discussed were: the impact of indiscriminate payment reductions in laboratory medicine; the need to provide physician education related to laboratory utilization; the shortage of laboratory medical professionals and how technology will change the vocation and the required skills in the future; continuing education models; organizational barriers to quality and learning, and the role of regulatory oversight. “By bringing together leaders across professional disciplines to discuss the role of laboratory medicine, we were able to better appreciate the complexity of the context and to set a broader direction grounded in the reality of real world dynamics,” said Doug Beigel, CEO of COLA. “We are amidst tremendous change in healthcare and it is critical that we begin to have more whole system dialogue so that when we make decisions impacting the quality of patient care we don’t create unintended consequences.” Outputs from the event will be released this summer, including a paper reflecting the group’s attitudes, knowledge and insights on the topic of creating a culture of quality in laboratory medicine and infographic illustrations.

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About COLACOLA accredits nearly 8,000 medical laboratories and provides the clinical laboratory with a program of education, consultation, and accreditation. The organization is an independent, non-profit accreditor whose education program and standards enable clinical laboratories and staff to meet CLIA 88 and other regulatory requirements. COLA’s program is endorsed by the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Academy of Family Practitioners (AAFP), and the American College of Physicians (ACP). It is recognized by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (TJC). For more information about COLA accreditation services and educational products, and online educational opportunities, please call 800-981-9883 Call: 800-981-9883 or visit COLA's web site at or