"Lab Briefs"

DeVry University, Retail Walk-In Clinics, NeoGenomics, Clarient, Clinical Lab Partners, Patient ID Theft

MED TECH SHORTAGE CAUSES DEVRY UNIVERSITY TO OFFER MT DEGREE

IN RESPONSE TO THE GROWING SHORTAGE of skilled lab scientists and medical technologists, DeVry University of Phoenix, Arizona, is offering a new bachelor’s degree program in Clinical Laboratory Science (CLS). What is notable about this development is that DeVry is a private, for-profit organization and believes it can make money training students in clinical laboratory science.

A large, private training enterprise, DeVry is likely to spend money marketing its program and advertising the availability of jobs for MTs. Devry’s new MT degree program also demonstrates that the shortage of MTs and MT training creates a business opportunity, one that many academic centers have been slow to address.

Significantly, DeVry named Naomi P. McMillan, M.S.A., to be its Academic Program Director for the new CLS degree program. Previously, McMillan served as chief of the Applied Technology Center of the U.S. Air Force Institute for Operational Health in San Antonio, Texas. She has 20 years of experience in clinical laboratory operations and management.

ANALYSIS DETERMINES WALK-IN CLINICS DO MEET NEEDS OF PATIENTS

WHEN IT COMES TO RELATIVELY MINOR HEALTH ISSUES, retail walk-in medical clinics are filling a consumer need for predictable, speedy, reliable healthcare services. Also, because clinics located in retail stores help patients avoid traditional medical settings, they are attractive to patients who want to avoid obstacles to care for minor ailments.

An analysis of these clinics was published in the journal Health Affairs. In the study, data was analyzed from 1.35 million patient visits at more than 300 clinics, including those operated by eight different companies in such stores as Wal-Mart, CVS, and Walgreens. Researchers determined that 67% of retail clinic patients have insurance and 60% do not have a primary care physician. About 90% of patients sought treatment for relatively simple treatments that don’t generally require a physician’s care, such as ear and upper respiratory infections, immunizations, and blood pressure checks. Essentially, these patients had minor conditions, were basically healthy, and wanted easy access to rapid treatment.

In his blog, Lab Soft News, pathologist Bruce Friedman, M.D., has said retail clinics are an attractive new model for healthcare delivery based, in part, on price transparency. But also they could become a significant venue for lab testing, he added. Laboratories could capitalize on this trend by implementing patient-friendly features and providing information for patients to make lab tests easy for consumers to find, access, and use. Labs could work with walk-in clinics to offer point of care testing at these clinics, for example.

VOLUME GROWTH IN MOLECULAR TESTING BOOSTS TWO PUBLIC LABS

INCREASED UTILIZATION OF MOLECULAR TESTS for certain cancers is fueling increased specimen volume and revenue at two public laboratory companies. Both NeoGenomics Inc., in Fort Myers, Florida, and Clarient Inc., of Aliso Viejo, California, reported similar gains on their most recent financial statements.

Molecular testing volume is growing by about 25% per year, according to Robert Gasparini, President and Chief Scientific Officer of NeoGenomics. He notes that this growth is driven, in part, by demand from an aging population and by an increase in the number of new tests being introduced into clinical practice.

NeoGenomics describes itself as a high-complexity clinical laboratory that specializes in molecular and genetic testing for cancer. For second quarter 2008, Neogenomics reported a 108% increase in revenue, to $4.9 million. The company also said requisitions increased 69% and average revenue per requisition increased 24% to $835.

Clarient (formerly ChromaVision Medical Systems Inc.) said its revenue for the second quarter increased by 71%. It was $16.9 million compared with $9.9 million in the same quarter last year. Clarient has now reported 16 consecutive quarters of increased revenues. Testing volume for the second quarter rose by 60% over the second quarter of 2007. Clarient attributed this growth to a 30% increase in breast prognostics and solid tumor tests, an 86% increase in leukemia and lymphoma volumes, and a 98% increase in PCR/molecular testing.

Despite enjoying similar rates of growth in specimen volume and revenue, both companies had different financial outcomes. The smaller NeoGeonomics, which has funded its growth through its cash flow and retained earnings, posted net income of $72,000 in Q2-08, com- pared to a Q2-07 loss of $973,000. The much larger Clarient, which has been primarily funded by professional investors, reported a net loss of $4.3 million for the quarter. That was larger than the company’s net loss of $3.3 million for Q2-07.

LAB FINDS RARE CASE OF BUBONIC PLAGUE

ONCE AGAIN, A LABORATORY IN THE UNITED STATES HAS DEMONSTRATED THE ABILITY to accurately detect a rare and often fatal disease. Pathologists at Clinical Laboratory Partners in Newington, Connecticut, identified an unusual disease-producing pathogen earlier this month: Yesina pestis, or bubonic plague. Jaber Aslanzadeh, M.D., the lab’s Director of Microbiology, said it was the first time he had identified the rare—and potentially deadly—specimen. The patient is believed to have contracted the infection while visiting Wyoming and was expected to make a full recovery.

CANCER LAB CLERK FACES CHARGES IN PATIENT ID THEFT

IT HAS HAPPENED AGAIN. An employee in a clinical laboratory is accused of patient identification theft. Police in Houston, Texas, issued an arrest warrant for a clerk in surgical pathology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. The clerk is accused of using patients’ data to apply for credit.

Harris County prosecutors issued a warrant on Sept. 5 for Angelina Cloud-Equam, a 26-year-old former clerk at the cancer center who was wanted on charges that she stole identities of hospital patients. A spokesman for the cancer center said Cloud-Equam was fired after an investigation revealed that the clerk’s home computer contained personal information on three patients at the center.

M.D. Anderson acted swiftly. In a public statement, it said it was in contact with the three individuals affected by Cloud-Equam’s alleged crime to assist them in appropriate ways. The cancer center is also offering 12 months of free credit monitoring for any patients whose personal data might have been compromised by this laboratory clerk.

This case is a reminder for pathologists and lab directors. It demonstrates that labs are vulnerable to patient identify theft crimes. Every laboratory should be reviewing its protections against such crimes. In 2005, THE DARK REPORT published detail coverage about the nation’s first successful prosecution under HIPAA laws of a phlebotomist who stole a dying patient’s information and used it to steal almost $20,000 (See TDR, April 18, 2005).

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