Direct Access to Lab Results: A Huge Step for Patient Data Ownership

This is the first in a series of posts by Missy Krasner, Box's Managing Director of Healthcare & Life Sciences, focusing on early disruptors who are storing protected health information (PHI) in Box.

Last week, Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a final rule requiring all U.S. laboratories to provide patients direct access to their lab results without needing to go through a doctor first. Experts estimate that compliance with this new law could create up to 3.5 million new patient data requests annually. The challenge? HHS estimates that 22,861 labs do not have the capabilities in place to accommodate these requests. Moreover, to meet demand, these labs may need to invest up to $2-10 million combined in new technology. (California Healthline)

There’s an opportunity here for a simpler, more cost-effective solution. For instance, Accesa Labs – a Box healthcare customer -- is already combining patient-friendly service to deliver test results directly to patients. I caught up with the co-founder, Matthew Williamson, to discuss.

Missy Krasner (MK): So Matt, tell us what Accesa labs does?

Matthew Williamson (MW): Accesa Labs provides patients with an online service to order lab tests directly through an e-commerce platform. Patients can research, order, and pay for lab tests directly online. Then, all e-requisitions and lab results are delivered directly to patients in a secure manner using Box.

MK: What’s the benefit to the patient? Why is this a better model?

MW: We’re all about creating price transparency and ease-of-use for patients. We remove many of the hassles associated with the lab order process – multiple visits to your doctor’s office, determining the right tests, and dealing with the confusion of costs and insurance coverage. We streamline this entire process: patients have more convenient testing options and receive a copy of their test results typically within 2-4 days via Box.

MK: How do you deal with patient data and PHI?

MW: We deal with PHI at every step of our process from ordering, to customer service inquiries, to results delivery. And to extend our HIPAA compliance to the cloud, we signed a HIPAA Business Associate Agreement with Box. This allows us to create folders for each patient to share PDFs of lab orders, instructions, and test results. Patients are invited into a folder as a collaborator and are protected by a unique password. People have embraced our use of Box because it makes it so easy for them to securely access and share their information.

MK: So why not just build a patient portal and have patients get their test results there, like other national labs are doing?

MW: We had a system for sharing lab results with customers, but it was clunky and not well adopted. So we asked ourselves: why should we have patients log into yet another system to access just their lab results? We realized we could offer a better customer experience if we used a secure platform that consumers were already familiar with. For us, Box was a natural choice.

MK: Matt, do you plan on expanding your use of Box?

MW: Many of our customers need to be able to share their lab results for various reasons, including school requirements, work credentialing, or a medical treatment plan. Patients have embraced Box because it makes it easy for them to securely access and share their information from anywhere. And, while we deal primarily with lab test results, we’ve also uploaded other types of PHI to customer’s folders including physical exam documentation, imaging results, and vaccination records. As a result, the patient’s folder on Box is evolving into a simple personal health record (PHR) that’s easier for them to maintain.

For more information on Accesa and other customers storing PHI in Box, check out our webinar. And visit us at the HIMSS conference where we will demo our integration with Care Cloud, one of the leading cloud-based electronic medical record systems.