Last week in New Orleans, the 14th Annual Executive War College on Laboratory and Pathology Management took place, with more than 450 senior laboratory administrators and pathologists in attendance from 11 nations across the globe. It was an upbeat gathering, despite the economic downturn being felt by hospitals, health systems, and laboratories in many countries.

Some of that optimism stems from the fact that many laboratories continue to do well-clinically and financially. That was the case with three strategic management case studies presented at the Executive War College:

Bio-Reference Laboratories, Inc. (BRLI) of Elmwood Park, New Jersey: CEO Marc D. Grodman, M.D., discussed how BRLI has grown from $54 million in 1999 to more than $350 million this year. Over those years, BRLI has pursued a strategy that can be emulated by many clinical laboratories. At its heart, BRLI is a regional laboratory providing lab testing to office-based physicians in New York City and the surrounding metropolitan area. However, from that flow of specimens, BRLI then develops specialty testing lines-supervised by nationally-known subspecialist pathologists and scientists-which it markets nationally. These reference and esoteric testing lines generate higher reimbursement than routine testing.

Henry Ford Health System Laboratories, Detroit, Michigan: Next was a laboratory case study that is particularly relevant for tough economic times. In two separate sessions, Richard Zarbo, M.D., Senior Vice-President and Chair, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine John Waugh, Director of Laboratory Operations at Henry Ford Health, discussed his laboratory’s success at building a dynamic lab outreach program in an urban market that has some of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. This laboratory organization has worked hard to integrate laboratory testing services across the seven hospitals and 40 ambulatory care centers in the system. It is supported by a laboratory information system that is itself integrated and offers sophisticated capabilities to client physicians in the outreach market. As a result outreach revenues have climbed steadily in recent years and the consolidated clinical laboratory now performs more than 11 million tests annually.

Cedars Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California: Personalized medicine and molecular diagnostics were primary themes of the next medical laboratory case study. Mahul B. Amin, M.D., Ph.D., Professor and Chairman, Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine at Cedars Sinai, shared the strategies his laboratory is using to support personalized medicine and integration of medical care. He explained how care at his institution is rapidly evolving from “symptoms-based medicine” to “genetics-based medicine.” Using examples of breast cancer and prostate cancer, Amin showed how pathology and clinical lab testing services are incorporating molecular assays to provide referring physicians and their patients more detailed and accurate information to help in diagnosis, inform treatment options, and monitor patient progress.

These three strategic clinical laboratory case studies provided compelling evidence to attendees at the Executive War College that, even in difficult economic times, clinical laboratories can grow and prosper, delivering ample cash flow back to their owners or parent hospitals. There were lots of other exciting presentations. In fact, this year’s Executive War College had more than 60 sessions and speakers! In upcoming Dark Daily briefings, we will share with you insights from the special session on “Mergers & Acquisitions in Clinical Laboratory and Pathology“, along with the remarkable information that emerged from the special presentation and expert panel on Vitamin D testing—which is rapidly becoming a high volume test for many medical laboratories in the United States and in other developed countries.

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