Why There’s “Bad Blood” Against National Labs

I AM FREQUENTLY ASKED BY WALL STREET TYPES why there seems to be latent, even deep-seated animosity between a large number of local laboratories and both of the two blood brothers. They wonder why, for example, hospital laboratories aren’t more interested in doing collaborative ventures with either of the two national laboratories.

Of course, the answer to this question is quite complex. In fact, many hospital labs have amicable relations with the two blood brothers. But it is equally true that a large number of hospital labs around the country view the two blood brothers with disdain. Those of us with at least a decade in the lab industry recognize the sins of many (now defunct) public lab companies in past years were the direct cause of untold problems for all labs. The negative legacy of those public lab companies lingers even today in the areas of Medicare compliance, managed care contracting, competitive pricing, and a host of other issues.

What triggers my thoughts today is a recent example of the type of blood brother behavior often responsible for this lack of respect among local laboratory competitors. Recently THE DARK REPORT visited a major tertiary hospital center in the South. A highly-respected institution, it has found it difficult to establish the collegial business relationship with one national lab that is traditionally found among all laboratory competitors in a community. Because space is limited, the gist of the story is this. Hospital lab uses one brand of liquid preparation Pap smears. National lab uses another brand. When a physician sends, by error, a specimen using the hospital lab’s liquid prep kit to this national lab, what do you think happens? Does the national lab send a courier over to the hospital with the specimens in question? No! Does the national lab set the specimen aside and notify the hospital lab that its courier can come by and pick it up? No! The national lab sends that specimen back to the referring physician with a note stating that he/she “used the wrong collection kit.”

It has always been common courtesy for even intense lab competitors to reroute misdirected specimens in a timely fashion back to the correct laboratory. Why does this national lab perpetuate a practice that only generates ill-will with its laboratory peers in town? Moreover, doesn’t the delay in testing caused by this policy affect patient care? Certainly this national lab’s local policy in the Southeast United States contradicts the clear public statements on this matter by both national lab CEOs.

For my part, I’d like to offer this as one example as to why public lab companies generally are not well-respected by their local lab peers. It also raises my curiosity about what other examples of uncollegial or uncooperative business practices may be happening around the country. Thus, I invite clients and readers to email, voicemail, or fax their experiences to me at our Oregon headquarters office. I’ll be glad to report the results of this informal poll to you.


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