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2018 Issues

Rapid PCR rules as labs ready flu arsenal

December 2018—With the memory of the 2017–2018 “high-severity” influenza season fresh in mind—49 million cases, 960,000 hospitalizations, a marginally effective vaccine, 79,000 deaths—clinical laboratories have been bracing for the customary annual surge in emergency room, outpatient clinic, and physician office influenza test orders. Although flu admissions have been rising somewhat, it is too soon to know how the season will play out, but laboratories are hoping for a season closer to average. Avoiding a repeat of last year’s travails—lengthy turnaround times, supply shortages, and the need to triage patients for testing—is a must, many laboratory directors say. “We had difficulty keeping up with last year’s demand. It was extremely time-consuming,” says Mary Kay O’Connor, national laboratory director at Summit Health Management, the management arm of the Summit Medical Group, an 800-provider practice on the East Coast.

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Drug overdose deaths and toxicology tests: Let’s talk

December 2018—Drug overdose deaths in the United States continue to rise, and recently many of these deaths have been attributed to opioids, including fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, and other opioid receptor agonists. The rise in drug overdoses and drug-related deaths, and the devastating effects of the opioid crisis, highlight the need for communication and coordination among forensic pathologists, hospital clinicians, and laboratorians.  

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Higher pay for fibrinolysins interpretation in ’19 fee schedule

December 2018—The CMS finalized its 2019 Medicare physician fee schedule and its response to the CAP’s recommendations to raise payment for fibrinolysins interpretation and reporting and to forgo a proposed decrease to the physician work value for blood smear interpretation. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Nov. 1 published the 2019 physician fee schedule. Services on the physician fee schedule are composed of three relative value units designated by the CMS: physician work, practice expense, and malpractice liability RVUs. Each RVU is separately valued and summed to equal the total RVU for each physician service on the fee schedule. The CAP advocates for the appropriate valuation of pathology services through its representation on the advisory committee of the AMA/Specialty Society Relative Value Scale Update Committee, known as RUC.

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AMP case report: Discordant IHC/PCR test results for mismatch repair status in colorectal adenocarcinoma

December 2018—CAP TODAY and the Association for Molecular Pathology have teamed up to bring molecular case reports to CAP TODAY readers. AMP members write the reports using clinical cases from their own practices that show molecular testing’s important role in diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment. The following report comes from Duke University Medical Center. If you would like to submit a case report, please send an email to the AMP at amp@amp.org. For more information about the AMP and all previously published case reports, visit www.amp.org.

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Put It on the Board

Pathologists and population health—
first steps

December 2018—Pathologists and population health—first steps: Pathologists who want to become involved in population health initiatives can take five main steps, say pathologists and laboratory leaders interviewed for an article published online last month in Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine. In “The role of the pathologist in population health,” the authors report on the interviews they conducted and their review of the literature to answer several questions, among them whether pathologists in both large settings and smaller community-based settings can engage in population health (yes), and whether pathologists are in a position to analyze data for population health (“The data are there,” they say, “but getting to the data—and providing meaning out of it—is the hard part”). One of the first steps to becoming involved in any type of population health management activities, the authors write, is to understand the philosophy of the institution’s CEO and senior management.

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Q&A column

Q. Can you explain further the revised CAP checklist requirement COM.40850 “LDT and Class I ASR Reporting,” which says to describe the method and performance characteristics in test reports unless the information is available to the clinician in an equivalent format? Read answer. Q. Can we see reactive lymphocytes in the pediatric population (under age two), and can we report them? Read answer.

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