Shortage of pathologists only adds to the challenges of providing high quality anatomic pathology testing services

DATELINE: Hangzhou, China—More than 1,200 Chinese pathologists and medical laboratory scientists assembled this weekend in a city marked by 1,500 years of history. The occasion was the first-ever combined meeting of the Chinese Society of Pathology and the Pathology Branch of the Chinese Medical Association.

Across the globe, pathologists and clinical laboratory professionals regularly hear about the rapid economic growth in China. This country is modernizing at an astounding rate and the evidence is easy to see in its major cities. That is certainly true here in Hanghzou, which has a population of 8.7 million people and is the anchor city for Zhejiang Province, with a population of approximately 54.4 million. It has many new buildings in its downtown and construction cranes are visible in every direction.

Chinese Pathology Congress Featured More than 100 Speakers

There were more than 100 presentations over the three days of the 17th Congress of the Chinese Society of Pathology and the 1st Annual Meeting of Chinese Pathologists. Topics covered the many types of common cancers. There was much interest in molecular diagnostic technologies, digital pathology applications, and the role of genetic mutations in cancer diagnosis and selection of appropriate therapies.

Your Dark Daily editor, Robert Michel, was here to speak about specific trends unfolding in the histology laboratory that contribute to improved quality and help anatomic pathologists make more accurate diagnoses. These automated solutions for tissue preparation and tissue processing are for sale in China and the vendors in the exhibition hall were busy over all three days of the Pathology Congress.

Improving the workflow productivity for histology laboratories in China is essential, since the demand for anatomic pathology testing in this nation of 1.3 billion people is growing faster than the existing capacity to handle these specimens. In his presentation, Michel discussed how innovative pathology laboratories are bringing together Lean and Six Sigma management methods in tandem with histology automation and software tools—like bar coding—that raise the quality of tissue processing while also increasing the productivity of laboratory staff.

Further, it is the role of a quality management system (QMS) to bring all these disparate elements together. In China, some laboratories are adopting ISO 15189 as their QMS. All of these developments are unfolding at a much faster pace than is typically seen in North America or Northern Europe.

Vendors Play a Role in Advancing Anatomic Pathology Education

Another interesting aspect to anatomic pathology in China is the role of vendors in furthering education and exchange of knowledge. ThermoFisher Scientific provides a good example. It introduced several new products at the Pathology Congress and helped arrange your Dark Daily editor’s presentation.

Every in vitro diagnostics (IVD) manufacturer that offers an automated laboratory instrument knows that the full potential of that lab automation solution can only be achieved when the lab customer achieves a fully-integrated workflow. In its exhibition booth, ThermoFisher’s marketing message centered upon integration of histopathology workflow. Along with automated instruments, it offers bar code systems, and related products designed to help pathologists tap the full productivity potential of the automated instruments in the histology laboratory.

In recent weeks, Thermo Fisher Scientific launched its next generation automated solutions for histology and anatomic pathology globally. Here in Hangzhou at the Congress of the Chinese Society of Pathology, one of the new instruments it unveiled was its sleek CryoStar NX70. At the same time, following the adage that “you don’t want to automate bad work processes,” Thermo Fisher Scientific is emphasizing the importance of workflow redesign in the histology. The poster behind the instrument shows one suggested arrangement to optimize workflow in the histology laboratory. Pictured are: (left) Michael Zhang, Commercial Manager of the Anatomic Pathology Division of ThermoFisher China and (right) Robert Michel, Editor of Dark Daily.

Of course, all of this sounds familiar to pathologists and medical laboratory professionals in the West. After all, for decades, pathology laboratories in the world’s most advanced nations have consistently delivered medical lab tests of high quality. But in China, quality is not assumed by many consumers—and by many patients!

Patients Want to Trust Quality of Medical Laboratory Testing

In this country, there are patients who are skeptical of the quality of the hospital and the quality of the laboratory and its pathologists. That is why certain pathology laboratory organizations are looking for quality hallmarks they can use to distinguish themselves in the competitive healthcare marketplace.

For example, the College of American Pathologists (CAP) currently accredits 16 laboratory organizations in China. Some Chinese pathology laboratories are earning accreditation to the national version of ISO 15189. Pathology laboratories directly benefit from these accreditations because it gives them more credibility with physicians and patients in China.

China is poised to grow into one of the world’s largest markets for healthcare products and services. In that regard, it will exert significant influence on the global IVD manufacturers. Further, some of the early exchanges of anatomic pathology expertise taking place between academic centers in the United States and their counterparts in China are likely the prototypes for greater interaction between the pathologists in China and pathologists in the United States.

Still ahead on your Dark Daily editor’s itinerary here in China are site visits to several hospitals to see their clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology departments. More insights about the state of laboratory medicine in this dynamic nation will be featured in future Dark Daily e-briefings and The Dark Report.

 

Your Dark Daily Editor,

Robert L. Michel

e-mail: rmichel@darkreport.com with your comments.

Related Information:

Chinese Society of Pathology Web Site

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