Who “Runs” the Lab Industry?

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HAVE MOST OF YOU EVER THOUGHT ABOUT WHO “RUNS” THE LAB INDUSTRY? This is a serious question! Who is responsible for teaching lab managers what is necessary to run a productive, profitable, and stable laboratory organization?

After all, laboratories in 1999 look very different than they did in 1989 or 1979. This is true whether it is a hospital-based laboratory or a commercial laboratory. You can see the changes. Assays are different. New instruments and new technology can be found everywhere. The organizational structure of laboratories has evolved in ways unimagined ten years ago.

I ask the question about who “runs” the laboratory industry for a reason. During the 1990s, I have been disappointed to see the turmoil, disruption, and misery caused as commercial lab and hospital lab consolidation wiped out thousands of jobs, upset tens of thousands of doctors, and made laboratory medicine a very stressful profession.

Obviously, as an industry, laboratorians certainly did a poor job of anticipating the future and preparing for it. The fat and prosperous years of the 1980s and early 1990s certainly lulled a number of lab executives and administrators asleep. They missed important signs that would have helped them weather the storms of managed care, declining reimbursement, and clinical integration. Whoever was “running” the lab industry during those years certainly let all of us down. We were not equipped with the success models necessary to guide our laboratories safely through the trials and tribulations that have shaken all of healthcare down to its very foundations.

I would suggest that the people “running” the lab industry today are those individuals who’ve cracked the code and combine enlightened management methods with strong leadership skills. They operate laboratories which are dynamic and productive places to work. We need to pay closer attention to them and learn what they can teach us.

American Medical Laboratories is one such place. As you’ll read on pages 2-8, its leaders have created a spirited, motivated laboratory organization that is growing rapidly. This growth creates job opportunities for its employees and enhanced services for physicians and patients. These are precisely the benefits that all lab managers want to offer their own employees, clients and patients. The challenge is for all of us to learn how to create a similar climate of stability, confidence, and success for our own laboratory!

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