The Expanding Reach of the Laboratory Outreach Program


The laboratory outreach program has the privilege of serving the outpatients of a hospital or health system. As care models in the United States continue to shift more services away from the hospital and toward ambulatory and outpatient, laboratory services must follow. However, today’s laboratory outpatient has adopted a “consumer” approach to healthcare and laboratory; it is no longer enough for a provider to select and recommend a specific laboratory to a patient. Additional factors that influence patient choice in a laboratory include locations, hours of service, affordability, and result accessibility. An engaged patient/consumer will be a loyal laboratory customer.

Patients are taking an increasingly active role in monitoring their laboratory results. Patient engagement with the laboratory is key to preventing, treating, and monitoring chronic diseases, which require ongoing medical attention and may limit a patient’s daily activities. Chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States1.

Many chronic diseases rely on laboratory tests for diagnosis and monitoring. Laboratory tests can also be used to screen for risk factors for chronic conditions. When a patient takes the appropriate steps, they may be able to mitigate their chronic disease risk.

How can a laboratory outreach program engage the patient regarding the importance of using laboratory tests to manage their health?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has categorized seven diseases as chronic diseases: heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic lung disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease2. Some of these diseases have multiple risk factors, and some risk factors are easily identified by a laboratory test. A laboratory outreach program has an opportunity to engage patients regarding screening for chronic illness or other unique health concerns.

An approach to consider is to attach laboratory testing awareness to national health observance promotions, usually featured monthly3. For example, January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, which could be a great time to highlight the importance of cervical cancer screening tests like the Pap test and human papillomavirus (HPV) test. Other examples include promoting lipid testing during American Heart Month in February and promoting a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening test during Prostate Cancer Awareness Month in September.

When a patient has a diagnosis of a chronic illness, they may become “frequent fliers” of your laboratory’s services. For these patients, continuity in experience and access to results will ensure their engagement and continued loyalty.

The most successful laboratory outreach programs recognize the importance of serving multiple customers. From provider to patient to healthcare consumer, the laboratory has an opportunity to serve them all with high-quality results and excellent service. When aligning testing with community awareness and patient needs, the laboratory outreach program can strategically plan for future success.



Jane Hermansen

Jane Hermansen is living her childhood dream of being a laboratory professional. With a passion for community-based medicine, she has worked with hundreds of hospitals across the US in outreach program development and growth. She currently directs the outreach consulting activities for Mayo Clinic Laboratories.