Big Challenges For Clinical Laboratories

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AS YOU WILL READ IN THIS ISSUE, IT IS A REMARKABLE PREDICTION. Our editor states that, in only 24 months, virtually every physicians office in the United States will be connected to its laboratory providers through a web-based arrangement.

In my decades of watching the clinical laboratory industry, I have never seen anything approaching the speed with which this new technology will take over the clinical laboratory profession. It is a clear sign that the Internet economy is now targeting healthcare. It is also a sign that the pace of technology change in our industry is about to shift into high gear. Frankly, I don’t know if most laboratory administrators and directors are ready for this development.

In coming issues of THE DARK REPORT, there are some equally remarkable stories to introduce to our clients. More new technology is about to hit the marketplace which will radically change the organizational structure of both hospital labs and commercial laboratories. I don’t believe I would be going out on a limb to declare that the variety of new technology soon to arrive in the clinical laboratory marketplace will make this an exciting, but frustrating, business.

It will be exciting because all this new technology expands the usefulness and relevance of the laboratory to integrated clinical care. But it is frustrating because the sheer volume of new technology, and the speed with which it arrives in the marketplace, will challenge laboratory managers and pathologists. Our industry may be about to undergo a “technology overload.” As that occurs, many lab administrators and directors may mentally burn out from the non-stop pressure to evaluate and implement new technologies.

Maybe the global message to extract from this coming tidal wave of new technology is that clinical laboratories will finally be forced to abandon the “top down” hierarchical style of management that still predominates. No longer can one solo lab administrator reserve the right to make all major decisions. Instead, we will finally see the adoption of management philosophies rooted in Deming, Juran, ISO-9000, and the like. These are team-based management styles. They empower people closest to the problem, and the customer, to develop the best solutions for meeting and exceeding customer needs. As that happens, it should spark a new golden age for the lab industry.


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