When Managers Make Decisions

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IF YOU OPERATE A CLINICAL LABORATORY, does the news of NeoPath, Inc.’s national contracts with Kaiser Permanente and SmithKline Beecham Clinical Laboratories (SBCL) alter your competitive position in the market?

After all, it’s only been a few months since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved NeoPath’s Pre-Market Application (PMA) to use its AutoPap System as a primary screener. AutoPap has not been in widespread use as a primary screener. Consequently, any laboratory interested in acquiring this system has only a finite amount of clinical data available to evaluate this product.

So why did Kaiser make the decision to utilize AutoPap as the primary screener for its yearly volume of 1.4 million Pap smears? What did SBCL know that encouraged it to adopt AutoPap for primary screening of its yearly volume of Pap smears?

I would suggest that these decisions are not based on unique knowledge, unavailable to other laboratories. Quite the contrary. I believe these two companies demonstrate why people make the difference between success and failure within any laboratory company. Managers at both Kaiser and SBCL took initiative to bring the technology in-house at a time when it was exotic, unknown, and unproven.

Management at both companies encouraged their people to experiment with the earliest generations of competing automated cytology instruments. Corporate learning occurred as a result of the hands-on interaction with various new methods for screening Pap smears. These organizations supported management “experiments” that held the promise of improved quality and increased productivity.

I offer another insight about these two companies. It is risky to be the first to adopt radical new technology and clinical methods. But reward is commensurate with risk. Managers took the “risk” to be first. But how much risk are they taking after they have their own clinical experience with this automated cytology technology? Their willingness to experiment gave them knowledge unavailable to competing labs.

Managers and Medical Directors at both these companies should get recognition for their willingness to change the status quo. Their actions will improve the competitive position of their companies, possibly even while putting your own laboratory at a competitive disadvantage!


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