“October 20, 2003 Intelligence: Late Breaking Lab News”

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Here’s a reminder that corporate fraud didn’t bypass healthcare. Last week Albert Bergonzi, former Executive Vice President of McKesson/HBOC, pled guilty to violations of securities laws. He admitted that he had “cooked the books” around the time of HBOC’s acquisition by McKesson. In a court filing, Borgzoni declared “we falsely inflated quarterly soft- ware sales revenues by…recording revenue on con- tracts that were conditioned on ‘side letters’ that permitted customers to cancel the contract or return software…and backdating contracts to record revenue in prior quarterly periods.”

MORE ON: McKesson

The crimes were committed in 1998. When McKesson discovered the fraud and disclosed the news to the public in April 1999, its share price dropped from $65 to $34, costing investors $9 billion in lost market value! Bergzoni was indicted, along with two other HBOC officers whose trials have not yet been resolved.

“TALKING TUBES” MAY SOON BE IN NATION’S LABS

All too often, laboratories must cope with lost or misplaced tubes and specimens. However, a new technology promises to end that problem. Watch the technology curve for RFIDs, which stands for radio frequency identification tags. These are small plastic strips that contain a computer chip and a radio antenna. Current versions can hold 96 characters of information. The antenna broadcasts to a local receiver, which feeds the data into a computer for tracking and analysis. Stick an RFID on an object, like specimen tubes and slides used in labs, and the radio receiver can tell the operator both where it is and what it is. The military used versions of these to inventory and track containers of ammunition and supplies during the war in Iraq. Retailers are preparing to use them in grocery stores, department stores and other settings.

ADD TO: “Talking Tubes”

Prices for RFIDs are falling rapidly even as the device’s capabilities increase WalMart may be the first big retailer to deploy this technology. For clinical laboratories, RFIDs would allow an individual, holding the receiver, to find misplaced or missing specimens quickly. One pass near a rack of RFID-tagged tubes would identify all the tubes in that rack. Hospitals may be an early adopter of RFID products because of the difficulty in managing and tracking the huge inventories of items used in healthcare.

TRANSITIONS

•In Toronto Canada, Ene Underwood has left Toronto Medical Laboratories (TML), where she was President and CEO. TML is a large, joint venture laboratory in Ontario. Underwood will become the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Bridgepoint Health, also located in Toronto.

Oregon Medical Laboratories in Eugene, Oregon has a new acting CEO. Ran Whitehead was recently appointed to the position. He had been the lab company’s COO since 2001.

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