Across the nation, resources to support medical laboratory testing are dwindling even as physicians order more tests and labs must spend to acquire new diagnostic technologies
Canada’s clinical laboratory testing marketplace has just undergone another wave of consolidation among independent medical laboratory companies that has eliminated major lab test providers in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia.
But that’s just one trend in a nation where successive budget-cutting initiatives continue to whittle down and shrink the nation’s clinical laboratory testing infrastructure.
What happens when a province loses a major independent provider of medical laboratory testing? In British Columbia, BC Biomedical Laboratories was purchased by Life Labs in Toronto, Ontario. Similarly, Life Labs is about to complete its acquisition of CML HealthCare Inc., in Ontario. Each transaction greatly changes the lab testing landscape in those two provinces.
Canada’s Clinical Laboratories Must Deal with Shrinking Budgets
How to cope with shrinking lab budgets and regular increases in the demand for medical laboratory and anatomic pathology testing services will be a major topic when many leaders of clinical laboratories in Canada gather for the Sixth Executive Edge conference that takes place in Toronto, Ontario, on October 7-8, 2013.
Clinical laboratory administrators and pathologists are facing a serious conundrum. How do they test growing numbers of lab specimens even as the health authorities in most provinces cut back lab budgets and look for opportunities to shut down lab test facilities in outlying communities.
To provide insight on the “cost versus capacity” challenges facing all the clinical laboratory systems across Canada, James Tucker, Principal of the Boston Consulting Group in Toronto, will deliver a keynote address on “Utilization, Technological Innovation and the Two Tier Model.´ At the last Executive Edge in 2011, Tucker demonstrated how consolidation of lab testing as a strategy to lower lab testing costs ceases to be effective over a multi-year period.
Health Authorities Running Out of Strategies to Contain Lab Test Costs
Now he will speak to the limitations of the different strategies being enacted by provincial health authorities as they try to hold down costs even as physicians must order great volumes of tests due to an aging population with more chronic disease.
Tucker will delve into utilization management, including changing patterns of practice, eliminating or restricting tests, and new reimbursement schema. He will also provide insights into how new diagnostic technologies can help meet the challenge of maintaining quality while holding down costs. Ranging from genetic testing and digital pathology to the Two Tier Model, Tucker will provide a concise strategic assessment of these topics.
The trend of integrated clinical care represents another big source of change for clinical laboratories throughout Canada. This requires a high degree of operational and clinical interaction between laboratories and the physicians they serve. To lay out the opportunities, William Morice, M.D., Ph.D., Chair of the Division of Hematopathology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, will share how the pathology department at Mayo Clinic is using enhanced lab informatics in combination with clinical pathology expertise to deliver enriched lab test reports to referring physicians.
By offering physicians real-time support in lab test ordering and lab test interpretations, the pathologists at Mayo Clinic have reduced the volume of unnecessary tests, saving significant amounts of money. At the same time, patients are getting improved diagnostic accuracy. That is contributing to improved outcomes and worthwhile reductions in the overall cost of care.
Case Studies on How Canadian Labs Can Cut Waste and Boost Quality
Of course, these clinical lab industry trends are global. Other speakers at Executive Edge will be providing case studies and real-world examples of how lab managers can cut costs while sustaining quality and boosting the productivity of both lab automation and the lab staff. Examples of these presentations include:
• Point of care molecular diagnostics that slash time to answer and deliver more accurate diagnostic information that supports precision medicine; Dr. Shana Kelley, Professor, Dept. of Biochemistry, University of Toronto; Founder & Chief Technology Officer of Xagenic Inc.
• Using middleware and new technologies to automate both lab operations and management work flow; Norma Page, Vice President of Clinical Operations, DynaLIFEDx, Edmonton, Alberta
• Effective ways to engage hospital OR and ER staff to reduce specimen errors, improve patient safety, and reduce costs; Rita D’Angelo, Founder and Principal of D’Angelo Advantage LLC in Detroit, Michigan
Because of the globalization of laboratory medicine, this year’s Executive Edge features speakers and case studies from medical laboratories in the United Kingdom and the United States. Each of the three nations have innovative lab organizations that are successfully responding to the problems of growing utilization, decreasing lab budgets, the need for more integration of clinical care, and the acquisition and use of new genetic test technologies.
Clinical Labs Must Drive Out Unnecessary Costs and Improve Quality
Across Canada, clinical lab managers or pathologists are almost universally working to drive out unnecessary costs while sustaining and improving the quality of lab test results and the services they provide to physicians. The speakers and lab case studies to presented at Executive Edge are an exceptional opportunity to understand the key trends in healthcare and lab medicine, along with the strategies innovative labs are using to address those trends.
Those interested in attending Executive Edge can visit www.exec-edge.com for information on the full program and to register.
It is common knowledge among pathologists and clinical lab administrators that tougher financial times lay ahead, not just for the medical laboratory profession, but for all of healthcare in Canada. The system continues to winnow out weaker lab organizations that have not learned how to deliver added value to their referring physicians. It is essential that all managers more effectively manage their costs without undermining the quality and integrity of the lab test results produced by their clinical laboratory.