Applying Heat to the Pressure Cooker

I AM STRUCK BY THE NON-STOP TIDAL WAVE OF CHANGE which continues to strike at clinical laboratories and pathology practices. Although it may be tough to quantify the volume of change, that task becomes easier if you use each issue of THE DARK REPORT as a measuring post of change.

Take this issue, for example. As we go to press, Quest Diagnostics Incorporated’s acquisition of SmithKline Beecham Clinical Laboratories (SBCL) remains undone. Should it happen, virtually every laboratory in the United States will be touched by the consequences, in one fashion or another. If the acquisition never happens, a different SBCL will return to the marketplace, with a different set of consequences to the lab marketplace.

Another significant change is the wedding of AutoCyte, Inc. and Neopath, Inc., scheduled to close later this year. The two companies, along with Cytyc Corporation, have already changed the way the economics of cytology and Pap smear screening is viewed by laboratorians. That alone will trigger a cascade of different responses by laboratories in coming years to further advances in cytology technology.

Then there is Associated Pathologists Laboratories (APL) of Las Vegas. Again THE DARK REPORT identifies a success story where proactive lab management, combined with an investment in sales and marketing, is paying big dividends for an independent commercial laboratory. As you read about APL’s efforts to refine a hair-based drug screening test, consider how this new technology, and this new approach to drug screening, might alter the drugs of abuse testing marketplace during the next few years. I’ll bet the APL owners are glad they have a solid patent position backing their hair-based drug test.

Another valuable intelligence item provided in this issue is our editor’s introduction to the recent merger of Healtheon Corporation and WebMD, Inc. Talk about the potential for change! If this company can halfway succeed in its goal of using the Internet as the “copper wire” to transmit healthcare information and transactions between providers, then we will all need to reinvent ourselves, including THE DARK REPORT, sooner rather than later! Maybe a good metaphor for this is that every change to our industry is like adding heat to a pressure cooker. As managers, we must figure out a way to release the pressure. Otherwise, like an overheated pressure cooker, our respective lab organizations may explode from unreleased pressure.


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