Are Pathologists The Next “Fish In The Barrel?”

“SHOOTING FISH IN THE BARREL” MAY BE A GOOD METAPHOR TO DESCRIBE what can soon happen to the profession of pathology. This issue of THE DARK REPORT covers several important stories on laboratory management, with direct consequences to pathologists.

First, the ISO 9001 certification of the Nichols Institute division of Quest Diagnostics Incorporated (see pages 2-8) means that an internationally-accepted business management philosophy is finally taking root in the laboratory industry. Most major diagnostics companies have already become ISO 9000-certified, for competitive reasons. Pathologists who want to survive and thrive in the future of healthcare had better start to understand this new management philosophy, built around very different concepts than the old top-down, hierarchical management style that used to be the norm.

Second, Premier’s new initiative to create a breakthrough in how hospital-based laboratories contribute to the healthcare continuum should get equally serious consideration. Premier is the latest among several prominent hospital operators where corporate leadership finally recognizes the value of laboratory diagnostics. Its response is to immediately co-opt leadership of the laboratory and order that integration, consolidation, and regionalization take place… pronto! Isn’t it logical to assume that, once laboratory consolidation is complete, senior hospital administration will insist on pathology consolidation?

Third, MedPartners’ intention to divest Team Health, its $690 million division which manages hospital-based physicians brings into question the validity of physician practice management (PPM) companies for hospital-based physicians. This happens just as pathologists are about to be besieged by acquisition offers from at least three well-funded pathology PPMs.

My reading of these tea leaves causes me to recommend that hospital-based pathologists create a game plan for survival. The pace of change is accelerating. The degree of change will be radical, even revolutionary. Pathologists should not remain motionless, like deer in the headlights of an approaching car. Rather, pathologists should immediately access business experts and healthcare futurists for the purpose of developing their road map to success. All of these changes will create new classes of winners and losers. Career stability and financial achievement will accrue to those pathologists who heed the warning and help both themselves and their partners identify viable business options for their practice.


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