“November 18, 2002 Intelligence: Late Breaking Lab News”

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Antitrust regulators are signaling displeasure about a growing number of business activities in healthcare. Timothy Muris, Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), was in Chicago on November 7 to address a group of lawyers and business people. He told them that the FTC “continues to see a wide variety of overt anticompetitive behavior in healthcare, along with some new variants.”

MORE ON: Antitrust

In September the FTC formed a special task force specifically to evaluate completed hospital mergers to determine if they engaged in anticompetitive behavior following completion of the merger. As of press time, the FTC was also continuing its review of the acquisition of Unilab by Quest Diagnostics Incorporated. It is known that the FTC has antitrust concerns about the proposed deal, which was announced last April.

HAND-WASHING OUT FOR DOCS & NURSES; ALCOHOL GEL IS IN!

It’s another paradigm shift away from a long-standing practice. Lots of healthcare workers knew this was coming, but now it’s official. The
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidelines for infection control late last month which specify that alcohol-based gels and solutions can be used for hand hygiene. “We’ve learned that using alcohol-based products improves adherence to hand hygiene,” noted Julie Gerberding, Director of the CDC. Studies show use of these products in hospitals can potentially cut existing infection rates by half.

“LAB TESTS ONLINE” MOVES UP ON GOOGLE

Here’s another sign of change. The American Association of Clinical Chemistry (AACC) disclosed that its vendor-sponsored Web site Lab Tests Online is now Google’s top-ranked site for lab testing information. It has also risen to a number two ranking in the Google Directory listing for Patient Education. www.Labtestsonline.net is a worthy effort described as “a public resource on clinical lab testing from the laboratory professionals who do the testing.”

MORE FUNDING FOR MED TECH TRAINING

In Ontario, Canada, the provincial government announced $1 million in funding to expand training of medical technologists. Toronto’s Michener Institute for Applied Health Sciences will receive the funds to train 32 new med techs by 2005. Within the province, there are currently 250 vacancies for med techs at 93 hospitals. Another 100 vacancies exist at private labs.

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