Steps Toward the Globalization of Lab Medicine

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PATHOLOGISTS AND LABORATORY EXECUTIVES in this country generally don’t pay much attention to what is happening to clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology services in other countries. That is understandable, since there is lots of change unfolding in the lab testing marketplace within this country.

On the other hand, if it is true that globalization of healthcare in general— and laboratory testing specifically—is an emerging trend, then there is strategic value in monitoring key developments in other developed countries. Today, I’d like to share a short list of unfolding events affecting lab testing services in several countries. At a minimum, it provides evidence and insight that the globalization of lab testing looms.

Let’s start in the British Isles. THE DARK REPORT has briefed its clients and readers about the 100% outsourcing of Ireland’s Pap testing to an American lab company. That was followed by the Irish government’s announced plans to consolidate hospital testing into a handful of central labs, along with construction of two stand-alone lab facilities to serve office-based physicians.

In the United Kingdom, the new coalition government has announced the goal of reducing healthcare spending by £30 billion—a 20% reduction from the current level. For pathology and lab testing, the budget reduction is £750 million per year. At the same time, the National Health Service (NHS) is in active negotiations with private organizations and in vitro diagnostics (IVD) companies to explore and establish new models of integrated and consolidated regional laboratory organizations.

Canada’s issues seem to center around the quality of anatomic pathology services. In recent weeks, news stories have covered the findings of commissions and review teams tasked with identifying why patients in some hospitals received inaccurate lab test results. Consolidation of lab testing services is also ongoing in several provinces.

In Australia, an American private equity company is poised to acquire a private hospital company that happens to own one of Australia’s largest pathology companies. If the new owner were to decide to divest this pathology business, it is likely to roil the lab testing marketplace down under. Also during this time, the federal health program has instituted cuts in funding for lab testing services.

At some point, these restructuring and cost saving efforts will encourage a government health program to invite foreign lab companies into their country. That may be one likely path toward the globalization of laboratory testing.

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