Many IVD vendors are cautiously optimistic about the “state of the medical lab industry,” but recognize that declining reimbursement for lab tests is now harming many lab organizations

DATELINE: Houston, Texas—Once again, the American Association of Clinical Chemistry (AACC) and the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS) attracted a large crowd for their joint annual meeting. And, as is true every year, the activity on the exhibit floor provides valuable insights about the state of the clinical laboratory.

Your Dark Daily editorial team was here all week and had conversations with many executives from in vitro diagnostic  (IVD) manufacturers, laboratory informatics vendors, and specialty test companies.

Nation’s Largest Trade Show for Medical Laboratory Vendors

One thing that distinguishes the annual conference of the AACC and ASCLS is that the exhibition brings together the nation’s largest number of companies and vendors selling products to medical laboratories. Since the billion-dollar in vitro diagnostic manufacturers industry is quite good at generating publicity about their innovations and new products, DarkDaily.com is instead focusing on examples of innovative new products or services offered by smaller specialty companies who were exhibiting in Houston this week.

• In the area of laboratory informatics, physicians with electronic health record (EHR) systems are working to demonstrate their compliance with Stage Two Meaningful Use criteria. That creates the need for medical laboratory testing instruments in physician office labs (POLs) to interface directly with physicians’ EHR systems. Dawning Technologies, Inc., of Fort Myers, Florida was showing an early version of its solution. It is called “Hold and Match,” and the company projects that this middleware solution will be released to the market this fall.

• In the field of phlebotomy, risk of needle sticks is a constant issue. At AACC, Greiner Bio-One North America of Monroe, North Carolina, was showing its latest technology solution to improve the safety of both patient and phlebotomist during blood collections. The product is called Vacuette Safety Needle System Tube-Touch. Greiner considers it a third-generation safety product. It features passive automatic activation of a sheath that continually keeps the needle point hidden before, during, and after the needle stick. What may catch the attention of lab managers is that Greiner says it will be priced to be competitive with the more traditional blood collection devices that don’t have this feature.

• Centrifuges may seem like a rather low-tech item with not much room for improvement. However, Immuno Concepts, Inc., of Sacramento, California, was showing a line of “silent” centrifuges that it sells under the name “Silencer Centrifuges.” Among the respected lab organizations using this product are the hospitals in several VISNs of the Veterans Administration. Oh… and another benefit of these centrifuges is that they have brushless motors, which, according to the sales team in the booth, means a longer service life and fewer service calls.

Optimism or Pessimism about the Medical Laboratory Marketplace?

Many of you will be asking the obvious question: Were the lab industry vendors exhibiting in Houston this week optimistic or pessimistic about the clinical lab-testing marketplace at this time? This year, there was no clear consensus answer.

AACC Expo

In Houston, Texas, this week, the exhibition at the annual meeting of the American Association of Clinical Chemistry featured hundreds of companies that sell products and services to clinical laboratories. Because of recent decreases in reimbursement for medical laboratory reimbursement by government and private health programs, laboratory buyers were interested in new diagnostic products and technologies, but careful with the money they did have to spend.

DarkDaily.com regularly heard IVD company marketing and sales directors acknowledge that many medical laboratory organizations are holding back on purchases of new instruments and other services. At the same time, they were quick to add that sales are relatively steady, compared to past years.

That was specifically attributed to the fact that, in recent years, the equipment replacement cycles for many laboratories have increased. Consequently, those labs now reaching the end of these extended service cycles must replace equipment if they are to maintain the quality and the productivity of their lab-testing activities.

In turn, this is feeding a consistent volume of new equipment sales by the major IVD manufacturers.

Finally, if there was a common observation about the state of the clinical laboratory testing marketplace at this time, it was about the tightening financial situation. Vendors observed that most lab managers and pathologists are reporting reduced budgets from their parent hospitals and/or reduced reimbursement from both government and private health insurance programs.

Cost-Cutting at Many Clinical Laboratories

As a consequence, most clinical laboratories are instituting cost-cutting initiatives. Some are deferring major capital expenditures, and others are exercising more caution when deciding to set up and offer new lab assays.

In conclusion, it would be a reasonable assessment to say that, at least on the exhibition floor this year, the common theme was guarded optimism about the financial state of the clinical laboratory testing industry. This is accompanied by a recognition that further aggressive reimbursement cuts by the Medicare program and private health insurers will take a heavy toll on those clinical laboratory organizations that fail to keep their costs in line with reduced reimbursement for lab testing services.

Your Dark Daily Editor,

Robert L. Michel

Related Information:

Clinical Chemists and Medical Laboratory Professionals Gather at AACC’s Annual Meeting in Atlanta

AACC’s Clinical Pathology Laboratory Exhibition Showcases New Technology and Greater Interest in Lab Testing

Somber Mood Prevails at Nation’s Largest Gathering of Laboratory Testing Professionals

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