“August 4, 1997 Intelligence: Late Breaking Lab News”

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Impressions from the AACC’s annual convention in Atlanta in July: With more than 16,000 attendees, it is much larger than CLMA. International attendees comprised at least 25% of that number. The exhibit hall is heavy on technical products and instruments. Conspicuously absent as exhibitors were the major LIS vendors and reference laboratories. The AACC’s traditional emphasis on technical and scientific presentations meant that workshops on different aspects of laboratory management were not as comprehensive as what is typically found at CLMA.

“Plug and Play” for HL7 standard software is the goal of Hewlitt Packard’s Andover Working Group (AWG). Ten companies, including HBO & Company and Sunquest Information Systems, recently became “core members” of AWG. This requires each company to dedicate a full-time programmer to the effort. Launched in 1996, AWG has 24 core members and 200 supporting members.


In New York City, Beth Israel Medical Center’s U.S. Management Systems was acquired by PhyMatrix, a physician practice management firm. (Go here to read about a similar transaction.) In a fifty-fifty partnership, PhyMatrix and Beth Israel will form a management services organization to manage the 2,000+ independent practice association physicians affiliated with Beth Israel’s parent organization, Greater Metropolitan Health Systems.

More news on the Atlanta reference laboratory joint venture between MDS/ Autolab of Canada and Columbia/HCA. Test instruments and Autolab’s automated laboratory equipment are arriving daily at the facility. Columbia is telling hospital laboratory administrators in their 20 Georgia hospitals that the reference laboratory will become operational on October 1, 1997. Apparently reference work from the hospitals will flow in stages to the Atlanta lab, as different lines of testing are activated sequentially over time.

A new development in the managed care wars: Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Pittsburgh announced that it would only enter contracts with individual hospitals, not systems. Highmark, formed from the merger of Blue Cross of Western Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Blue Shield, has 2.5 million enrollees including 60% of Pittsburgh residents. “I view this as a pre-emptive strike to blunt the growth of the tertiary care networks,” observed William Hannah, a Pittsburgh- based healthcare consultant. “Highmark is not going to be put in a position of being leveraged by these networks.”

Highmark’s attempt to out-flank the power of emerging hospital systems indicates that insurance companies understand the threat represented by such systems. Pittsburgh demonstrates that the eventual winners and losers in advanced managed care markets have yet to be determined.


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