Two major clinical laboratory conferences reschedule, as the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic continues to disrupt long-planned events; Many labs are losing money as fewer patients visit physicians

This week, the ongoing Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic was responsible for two important developments in the clinical laboratory industry. Both involved the rescheduling of major annual conferences. In both cases, conference organizers are placing different bets on when they think the COVID-19 outbreak, the illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, will have passed and when they believe some semblance of normalcy will return to both social interaction and business activities.

On Monday, the American Association of Clinical Chemistry (AACC) announced that it would reschedule its 2020 AACC annual meeting and exhibition—originally scheduled for July 26-30, 2020, at McCormick Place in Chicago—to Dec. 13-17, 2020, also at McCormick Place.

On the same day, Dark Daily’s sister publication, The Dark Report, announced it had rescheduled the 25th annual Executive War College on Laboratory and Pathology Management to new dates and to a new hotel. This conference will now take place on July 14-15, 2020, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in New Orleans. This is a change from the originally scheduled date of April 28-29, 2020, and from the original location, the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel.

On its website, AACC stated: “Based on input from all stakeholder groups, and in close collaboration with host city officials, the organization is pleased to announce that AACC will be able to preserve the complete Annual Scientific Meeting and Clinical Lab Expo experience to which its members, exhibitors, and the entire laboratory medicine community have been looking forward. The 2020 AACC Annual Scientific Meeting and Clinical Lab Expo will now be held December 13-17, 2020, at McCormick Place in Chicago, IL, USA.”

Each conference claims to be “the largest” in some dimension. Each year, AACC’s annual conference attracts more than 20,000 attendees, as measured by clinical chemists and other visitors to its Expo, which features more than 750 lab companies.

While the Executive War College claims to be the largest conference serving the business, management, operations, and financial health needs of clinical laboratories and pathology groups. Each year, it hosts almost 900 attendees—generally senior administrators, lab executives, pathologist-business leaders, consultants, and in vitro diagnostics (IVD) manufacturers. The conference is supported by more than 50 corporate benefactors and sponsors. 

AACC’s rescheduling of its conference from July to December will delay two important activities:

  • Many lab scientists planning to attend were hoping to participate in the first assessments of the novel coronavirus pandemic, assuming that the pandemic had passed by mid-summer.
  • During AACC is when the nation’s major IVD manufacturers and companies that sell lab automation, instruments, test kits, reagents, and other products introduce their latest-generation solutions. Now, many of those product launches will be pushed back to December.

Meanwhile, organizers of the Executive War College are betting that the novel coronavirus pandemic will taper down, possibly synchronized with the end of the annual influenza season in North America, which is typically sometime in April or early May.

If this proves true, then conducting the conference on July 14-15, 2020, will give lab leaders the opportunity to gather and share lessons learned during this COVID-19 outbreak in time to prepare for a possible second outbreak of COVID-19 when the next influenza season arrives in the fall. It will also be an important opportunity for lab managers and pathologists to learn ways to restore revenue lost during the pandemic.

Clinical Laboratories, Pathology Groups, Hospitals, at Brink of Financial Ruin

“What has gone unrecognized by the national news media is how the novel coronavirus pandemic is causing financial devastation to the finances of the nation’s clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups,” stated Robert L. Michel, Editor-in-Chief of The Dark Report and Founder of the Executive War College. “In absolute terms, the pandemic is a growing financial disaster to the medical lab industry, and it will take years for many labs to rebuild the staff that they have laid off or terminated in recent months in order to stay operational.

“Why are all labs losing money at this time?” asked Michel. “The answer is simple—beginning early in March, patients stopped visiting their doctors. Hospitals ceased to admit patients for elective procedures. Fewer patients per day means fewer lab test referrals per day and loss of the revenue generated by those claims that pays the salaries and expenses of the labs performing those tests. Laying off or furloughing staff is one way labs lower costs in response to lower income.

“Many clinical labs, pathology groups, and the hospitals they serve are steadily approaching financial ruin,” he continued. “Every week the pandemic continues, and North American citizens are advised to shelter in place, forces labs to draw down their dwindling financial reserves to keep their doors open.” 

Robert Michel (above), Editor-in-Chief of The Dark Report and Dark Daily and Founder of The Dark Intelligence Group, will host the 25th anniversary Executive War College on Lab and Pathology Management on July 14-15, 2020, in New Orleans. Attendees from clinical laboratories and pathology groups will gain critical insights from such learning opportunities as: “Preparing Your Lab for a Second Outbreak of COVID-19,” and “Rapidly Building Cash Flow and Restoring Your Lab’s Financial Stability Post-Pandemic.” (Photo copyright: The Dark Report.)

This crisis has created three big questions that labs need to answer:

  • How much longer will the COVID-19 pandemic last before some degree of normalcy is restored (meaning patient office visits resume and physicians begin ordering lab tests every day)?
  • If there is a second outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 this fall, what does every lab need to know to be ready?
  • As American society and business return to normal, how can labs quickly build up cash flow, collect more revenue, and restore financial stability?

“Given the unknown aspects of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, the answer to the first question is a crap-shoot. But to reschedule the Executive War College to dates that are 14 weeks away seems a reasonable bet,” noted Michel. “The pay-off to that bet is the ability to provide the owners and leaders of the nation’s labs answers to the second and third questions.

“The 14 weeks between now and mid-July give us the opportunity to organize sessions and invite speakers who can provide answers and information to help labs with their two most pressing needs: to be prepared for another COVID-19 outbreak later this year, and to restore cash flow and financial health as soon as possible,” said Michel. “This will be the very first opportunity for lab managers and pathologists to assemble, learn the COVID-19 lessons from successful labs, gain financial insights, and network with their peers.”

The Executive War College team is inviting suggestions for speakers and session topics for the July 14-15 conference. The original agenda that was taking shape for the planned dates of April 28-29 will be revised so as to include presentations now directly relevant to the state of the clinical lab and pathology professions for mid-year 2020. Send your suggestions for topics and speakers to info@darkreport.com.

Information on registering for the 25th annual Executive War College, and on placing reservations at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in New Orleans, is available on the EWC website (or copy and paste this URL in your browser: https://www.executivewarcollege.com.)

People already registered for Executive War College 2020 will have their registrations automatically applied to the new July 14-15 dates.

—Michael McBride

Related Information:

25th Annual Executive War College, July 14-15, 2020

2020 AACC Annual Scientific Meeting and Clinical Lab Expo

CDC Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) Guidelines

This Coronavirus Outbreak Will Change Lab Industry

The Dark Report Special Issue: Labs Respond to Coronavirus Pandemic

Clinical Laboratories Should Be Aware of Potential Airborne Transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the Coronavirus That Causes COVID-19

Taiwan’s Containment of COVID-19 Outbreak Demonstrates Importance of Rapid Response, Including Fast Access to Clinical Laboratory Tests

AccuWeather Asks: ‘Will COVID-19 Subside as Temperatures Climb?’ Some Pathology Experts Say Yes, Others Are Skeptical