Updated: Jul 24
Healthcare organizations are under constant pressure to deliver better care at lower cost. Every day, patients and payers are demanding better outcomes from the treatments they receive. Many healthcare providers are trying to find ways to deliver value at lower cost, and diagnostic testing is a key area for them.
Independent Diagnostic Testing Facilities (IDTFs) are businesses that specialize in performing diagnostic tests at a lower cost than their competitors. They can help healthcare providers deliver better care at lower cost. This article covers the top five things you should know as an owner of an IDTF.
What is an IDTF?
An independent diagnostic testing facility (IDTF) is a business that specializes in performing diagnostic tests at a lower cost than their competitors. These tests are often ordered by healthcare providers to help them make a better diagnosis and improve patient care.
These facilities perform a wide variety of diagnostic tests, including testing specific to a region or state, as well as those specific to a specialty. In addition, they can perform more generalized lab tests that cover a large spectrum of indications.
IDTFs often work with a network of laboratory partners to provide a broader range of testing than they could perform on their own. Select partners specialize in testing for infectious diseases, metabolic abnormalities, and other conditions. These facilities know the market in which they work, and are able to locate labs that specialize in those areas that are most relevant to their clients.
How an IDTF Helps Healthcare Providers
Most healthcare providers want to improve the quality of care they deliver. But with limited funding available for improvements and years of increasing costs, some can’t find ways to deliver value at a lower cost.
An IDTF is a great solution for these providers. As we’ve seen, they can help healthcare providers deliver better care at a lower cost. However, they can do this in several ways:
Providing a Lower Cost Alternative - An IDTF is an alternative to more expensive options, including in-house testing labs and specialty clinical laboratories. The more costly providers might be making the case that lower-cost options are not applicable to the client’s needs. An IDTF can help prove that these requirements can be met with a lower-cost alternative.
Improving Response Times - The time between when a test is ordered and when it is completed can have a significant impact on the patient’s outcome. Providers can use shorter response times to improve care by improving diagnosis and outcomes, but the financial impact can be significant. In-house labs, specialty labs, and specialty providers often charge higher fees for faster response times. An IDTF can offer a range of response times and help providers improve care by choosing the most appropriate option for their needs.
Improving the Accuracy of Diagnosis - While the improved response times can lead to better outcomes, they can also lead to over-diagnosis. Providers can find ways to improve the accuracy of diagnosis while keeping costs down. Providers often have limited resources to spend on improving diagnostic accuracy, but an IDTF can provide access to specialty clinics, where diagnostic accuracy is often a higher priority.
Improving the Quality of Care - All of these benefits come at a cost. An IDTF will charge less for tests than its competitors, but it may cost the healthcare provider more in terms of time, wasted resources, and inaccurate diagnoses. Providers will have to weigh the cost of providing substandard care against the cost of performing the tests in-house.
How an IDTF Helps Hospitals and Clinics
Independently run diagnostic testing facilities can provide significant benefits for both hospitals and clinics.
Hospitals can help improve patient care by using lab testing to improve diagnosis and outcomes. However, they have limited resources to perform these tests. Hospitals also have many different locations with different needs. Providers such as IDTFs can help hospitals deliver better care at lower cost by providing access to a broader range of testing options.
While hospitals can provide better care, they often have the most to gain from an IDTF.
IDTFs Help Patients Too
An IDTF can help providers improve care by providing more accurate diagnoses and shorter diagnostic response times. But the benefits go further than this. They can also help patients by providing access to specialized labs that specialize in testing for rare conditions.
For example, a patient with an unusual tumor that is not included in a normal panel of tests might have a test in the future. An IDTF can help that patient find an open specialty lab and get it done, even if the tumor is not included in the standard panel.
Final Words: The Bottom Line
Owning an independent diagnostic testing facility offers significant advantages to healthcare providers. In fact, 36% of healthcare providers with an annual budget of less than $2 million regularly use an IDTF for testing.
If IDTF owners want to help them meet even more demand, you can provide a lower cost alternative, improve response times, improve the accuracy of diagnosis, and provide access to specialized labs that specialize in rare conditions.