Once upon a time, there were two major functional/specialty diagnostic laboratories. They each offered some unique test profiles, but there was also a lot of overlap between the two. The overlap, however, was not perfect duplication – for example, both labs claimed to offer amino acids testing, but one analyzed urinary output, while the other took a direct blood measurement.
The most pivotal test offered between the two labs is the comprehensive stool analysis. Both labs offered a similar panel, but their methods differed greatly. One utilized the DNA-based PCR method, which is highly superior, while the other utilized the standard culture method, which misses a lot.
Unfortunately, the lab using the inferior technologies (Genova Diagnostics) bought out the other lab (Metametrix Clinical Labs), due to Metametrix’s owners/directors aspiring to retire.
Practically every good Functional Medicine doctor began a journey on eggshells. As Princess Leia from Star Wars would gravely say, “I have a bad feeling about this.” But, trying to think happy thoughts, we went with the flow, praying that the merger would take the best of both labs and produce a wonderful hybrid.
However, our gut intuition told us otherwise, and it turns out we were right. The labs underwent about a year-long transitional period beginning in summer 2012, in which the retiring owners of Metametrix agreed to stay on for 1 year to ensure a smooth transition and harmonious blend between the marrying labs.
Genova behaved itself for the duration of that year, appearing to listen a lot (to us docs, who were not shy with our comments) and changing little (another relief, because Metametrix’s tests were fantastic just as they were, with little need for alteration).
Almost as soon as the door had closed behind Metametrix’s exiting owners, however, Genova took over like a tyrant. It was as if they said, “Now that you’re mine and you have nowhere else to go…”
They began changing things, and not for the better. Sure, we appreciate the increased insurance coverage and all that. However, when you start discontinuing tests or changing up the remaining tests, those of us depending on you get a little perturbed.
So I started poking around my pools of colleagues, and found that they shared my same sentiment. This sentiment grew a little more, um… intense… after talking with the lab directly. Their list of “crimes” is as follows:
They discontinued the Male Hormone Panel, something I found quite useful.
They left Metametrix’s (better) version of the Amino Acids panels off the revised and integrated price list. We had to call for test codes and pricing. They were hesitant, and it appears that they want to get rid of them altogether, outside of the ION super-panel.
Their communication and documentation have been CRAP. Policies got enacted or changed, major popular tests got *fundamentally* changed, and prices got increased, all without any prior notice.
Helpful informational articles on various tests have disappeared. Back when Metametrix and Genova were bitter competitors (don’t worry, Metametrix, you were far better all along), Metametrix wrote an article comparing the superior PCR microbial testing to the inferior culture-based testing. Of course, now that Genova has taken over and since Genova does culture and not PCR, they couldn’t have a disparaging article circulating out there. (There are ways to obtain this article – dump the URL of the PDF article into a website called the Wayback Machine and get it anyway!)
Genova raised the prices on ALL of their testing – some prices didn’t go up much, while others became downright cost-prohibitive.
They fundamentally changed Metametrix’s stool analysis test in several ways. First, they decided to “split off” the four major pathogenic bacteria from the original panel. Now, if you want to test for those infections (which are common and you don’t dare NOT test for them!), they cost extra. Second, they’re substituting inferior culture-based methods where superior PCR-based methods used to be. And this is all after a price increase. And all without any warning.
Genova outright lied to its clients, promising that they would. Not. Touch. The Metametrix test. All of the changes in the above paragraph were made to the Metametrix version of the test. Way to build trust, Genova.
Perhaps the most disturbing is the fact that regarding that stool test, Genova is now going to do away with certain types of abnormal results and report them as “negative/normal” instead. Yes, indeed! We heard this directly FROM THEM. Sometimes, microbial analysis will return abnormal yeasts, or parasites that cannot be classified. That doesn’t mean they’re not there, or that they’re harmless, it just means that there’s no known NAME to attach to them. What they’re going to do now is take the undetermined sample and attempt to culture it (yay) one more time and if they can’t make a specific determination, they’re going to report a “negative” (i.e. normal, no problem) result.
That, and dealing with their company is horrendous. Calling their customer service does nothing; they refer you right to their “rep” (hint: Metametrix didn’t have “reps”). These reps, while usually nice and personable and all that, are very poorly trained and have few real answers. So you’re given the run-around, time and again. (Some of my colleagues weren’t so lucky; they actually got treated RUDELY to the point where the Vice President had to send them a letter of apology for the phone operator’s rudeness.)
It’s important to understand that I was a loyal Metametrix customer for years. I was also more than willing to give Genova the chance. I offered suggestions and constructive criticism. I shared hour-long conversations with my area rep in which I felt a good rapport had been established. I was told very specifically that they would not change certain tests.
I was lied to.
The good news is, I am also a relatively influential force in my community. I gave that lab (Metametrix and now Genova Diagnostics) a LOT of business, despite my low patient volume. And my volume is only growing and will continue to do so. Thus, they may likely notice a slight drop in business if I give them the proverbial finger.
I’m also quite vocal, including social media outlets. I start conversation. I get people thinking. And I can rile people up and call them to action. This isn’t an ego trip, I promise (my ego is actually below average). But I’m sending a warning to Genova that they can’t lie to their clients and jack them around and expect us not to notice or get upset. I am the type of person who will seek out a comparable lab just to spite these folks and show them that their practices are NOT OK. And I do have several other options on the list; Genova is not the only fish in the pond…