New Lab Company Ready To Open In Orlando, FL

The next generation of lab entrepreneurs has a very different vision of lab testing

CEO SUMMARY: Within the next 60 days, a brand-new clinical laboratory company will begin operations in Orlando, Florida. In the short term, it plans to offer routine testing to physicians’ offices. However, the real goal is to create a laboratory organization with integrated information management capability and molecular testing services that will allow it to add significant value to laboratory test data.

DURING THE NEXT FEW MONTHS, the first of the new generation of commercial laboratories will become operational.

Cognoscenti Health Institute is preparing to open its laboratory facility and offer laboratory testing services to physicians in Orlando, Florida. When it does, it will become the first “cold start” launch in several years, a commercial laboratory with a facility but no specimen volume at the time of start-up.

Meeting Clinicians’ Needs

This rare event is noteworthy for another reason. The strategic business plan of Cognoscenti Health Institute is designed to meet the anticipated needs of clinicians who will be using genomics and proteomics-based diagnostics as these types of assays become available.

“Our goal is to establish a complete menu of molecular testing supported by a fully-integrated capability of collecting and reporting detailed clinical information,” stated Philip Chen, M.D., Ph.D., President of Cognoscenti.

“For us to serve the evolving healthcare system, our laboratory must be organized and operated in fundamentally different ways,” he added. “That’s why we are building our own facility. We are designing our systems and work flows from the ground up. It’s also why we did not acquire an existing laboratory as a way to enter the business.”

Cognoscenti’s business strategy is to provide laboratory testing services, both routine and reference, to office-based physicians supported by a different approach to laboratory informatics. “For us, as a laboratory, to con- tribute to improved clinical care, we must do more for our client physicians than perform a test and report its results,” noted Dr. Chen. “We want to provide clinical information and services which help physicians make better decisions about ordering lab tests and using the results.

“In practical terms, this helps physicians eliminate redundant testing, select the most appropriate test based on how the patient presents, and know when its time to retest.”

Dr. Chen’s strategic vision is based on bringing to office-based physicians the same kind of decision support and informatics resources available to physicians practicing in academic centers. He has worked in laboratory services at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, where he saw how advanced laboratory information services contributed to improved clinical care.

Pendulum Swung Too Far

Dr. Chen is the entrepreneur who’s championed the business plan of Cognoscenti Health Group. He obtained venture funding and picked Orlando as the place to establish his clinical laboratory. “There are 1.6 million people around Orlando, yet there are no major commercial labs located in the immediate area,” he noted. “We think the pendulum of lab consolidation has swung too far in one direction and that we can successfully compete in Orlando.”

Laboratory informatics will play a key role in the business services offered by Cognoscenti Health Group. In the process of receiving lab test orders and reporting results, Dr. Chen wants to gather enriched data sets about the patients and their diagnoses, therapies, and other clinical services. This information will be used to add value in a number of ways.

Electronic Medical Record

“First of all, our laboratory must fully support the electronic medical record (EMR),” he declared. “To accomplish this, we are carefully selecting software products which will allow us to be Internet-capable. We will support browser-based lab test ordering and results reporting.

“One of our business objectives is to work with clinicians so that, as lab tests are being ordered, we are getting additional information about the patient from the physician.

“We will use this additional data to develop decision support services to help our physician-clients put the lab tests they order to better use,” said Dr. Chen. “Beyond that, we envision connecting our laboratory to both pharmaceutical and biotech companies.

“This would include identifying patients for clinical trials, but our goal is more than that,” he continued. “New drugs are increasingly developed under a process called rational design. This requires closer interaction between the labs doing testing on patients participating in clinical studies and the pharma companies.

“We are designing the information systems at our laboratory to give us the capability of collecting and processing the more detailed type of information required to participate in these types of programs,” said Dr. Chen.

Lab Soon To Open

But before it can run, Cognoscenti Health Group must walk. That involves getting its lab open and launching routine testing services to the Orlando healthcare community. “Our laboratory is almost ready to open,” observed Dr. Chen. “Most of the construction is complete and we are proceeding with validations and inspections. “We expect to have the necessary licenses and be ready to open for business in the next 60 days.”

THE DARK REPORT believes Dr. Chen represents the first of a new generation of pathologists and lab entrepreneurs. His vision for Cognoscenti’s lab testing business illustrates how lab testing services will broaden to serve new types of clinical service providers.

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