In provinces across Canada, health systems are dealing with limited budgets, growing populations, and the need to transition to personalized medicine
Medical laboratories in Canada have something in common with medical laboratories in most other developed nations. Demand for healthcare services exceeds capacity, even as the healthcare system struggles to find adequate funding. This puts pathology labs in a bind, since they are asked to test growing numbers of specimens even as budgets are flat or shrinking.
That means the biggest two challenges facing labs in Canada will be familiar to pathologists, clinical chemists and medical laboratory scientists in almost every other developed nation across the globe. One challenge is how to meet the steady annual increase in lab specimens that must be tested. The second challenge is how to do that additional testing even as government health systems are forced to trim budgets year after year.
Medical Laboratories in Canada Face an Ongoing Funding Squeeze
Limited funding for lab testing creates another problem for medical labs, both in Canada and abroad. That problem is finding money to pay for expensive new diagnostic technologies. This is a key challenge because patients trust that their local labs are delivering high-quality, state-of-the-art diagnostic services.
In response to these challenges, Canada has examples of medical laboratories that are willing to think out-of-the-box in how they operate their labs. These first-mover and early-adopter lab organizations are on the front lines of creativity and innovation. Operationally, they combining Lean, Six Sigma, and process improvement methods with deployment of next-generation total laboratory automation solutions as a way to significantly reduce costs while improving staff productivity and increasing the quality of their lab testing services.
On the other hand, these same innovative labs are also among the first to introduce new molecular and genetic tests that help physicians make earlier and more accurate diagnoses while also guiding decisions about the best therapies. These labs are on the front lines of supporting personalized medicine and population management—two big trends seen in nearly all developed countries.
Lab Innovations to Be Shared at Executive Edge Conference in Toronto
All these innovations and more will be shared by some of some of Canada’s most innovative medical laboratory and pathology organizations at the Sixth Bi-Annual Executive Edge conference that will take place in Toronto, Ontario, on October 5-6, 2015.
Already recognized as one of Canada’s premier gatherings on medical laboratory and pathology management, Executive Edge will offer useful perspectives on the big changes coming to laboratory medicine. These changes center upon increased genetic testing and the large volumes of genetic information that some labs are already generating. Sessions will also address the role of lab data in healthcare “big data” and how personalized medicine is poised to transform how hospitals, physicians, and medical laboratories deliver clinical services. The following presentations and speakers will address these developments and more:
• Responsible Sharing of Genomic and Clinical Data, Peter C. Goodhand, CEO, Global Alliance for Genomics & Health (GA4GH), Toronto, Ontario. This session will describe how an international effort is working to advance the standardization and interoperability of genetic testing, genetic information, and the information technology used to handle this data.
• The Human Microbiome—Taking Personalized Medicine to the Next Level: Will Your Lab Be Ready? Malcolm Kendell, CEO Microbiome Insights, Vancouver, British Columbia. Learn about the expanding knowledge of the human genome and how it is contributing to advances in personalized medicine. This field of research is already producing diagnostic assays that are expected to be available for medical labs to use within three to five years.
• De-innovating to Improve the Value of Laboratory Testing in Canada, Dr. Christopher Naugler, Zone Clinical Section Chief and Associate Professor Departments of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and Family Medicine University of Calgary and Calgary Lab Services, in Alberta. Clinical practices are changing in ways that create opportunities for medical labs to contribute to improved patient outcomes by closer collaboration with physicians on appropriate utilization of laboratory tests. Dr. Naugler will share successful strategies for increasing knowledge and changing attitudes that produce results and improve the quality of patient care.
Primary Drivers for Labs Will Be Cost Control and New Diagnostic Tests
As all of the trends described above indicate, clinical laboratories in Canada will need to succeed in two ways. First, labs will need to be effective in cutting costs without compromising quality. That will fuel a demand for more lab professionals skilled in the methods of Lean, Six Sigma, and process improvement.
Second, labs will need to acquire and deploy a host of new diagnostic technologies. Innovations in total lab automation, mass spectrometry and rapid gene sequencing will give labs useful new tools. At the same time, Canadian labs will be handling large increases in diagnostic data. To support personalized medicine, it will be necessary for labs to continually upgrade their information technology capabilities.
All of these subjects will be discussed at the upcoming Executive Edge conference that takes place on October 5-6, 2016, in Toronto at the Marriott Bloor Yorkville Hotel. It is 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 see the full agenda and also register.