As demand rises, Canadian clinical laboratories must learn to juggle test systems automation, funding challenges, and staffing shortages

Canada’s clinical laboratories are deeply affected by many of the trends impacting the Canadian healthcare system overall. Deployment of new technologies, such as test automation and artificial intelligence (AI) for example, are forcing Canadian labs to adapt during times of changing demographics and funding pressures.

Thus, the Canadian Diagnostic Executive Forum (CDEF), which takes place October 24-25 at the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel in Toronto, will provide an opportunity for clinical laboratory leaders to learn how to leverage technology and create positive change in their medical laboratory operations.

Change Management and Clinical Laboratory Leaders

The development of disruptive new technologies is becoming the norm and the laboratory’s role in healthcare delivery is growing. That’s why change management has become a focus of clinical laboratory leaders.

Sheila Woodcock, Convenor, WG 1 Quality and Competence in the Medical Laboratory at ISO/TC 212, and President and Principal Consultant at QSE Consulting Inc., Nova Scotia, Canada, says “allocation of resources” is a challenge for senior diagnostic executives juggling financial, technology, and staffing decisions.

In an exclusive interview with Dark Daily, Woodcock said, “The number one lab challenge today is not having enough money; second is not having enough people. Because if you don’t have enough money, even if there are people out there, you can’t hire them. Money, people, and trying to keep up with all the technological innovations bombarding us nowadays are the main reasons to make changes.”

From deployment of digital pathology services and point-of-care (POC) testing to the introduction of automation and AI, innovation is happening at a rapid pace. It may or may not increase medical laboratory efficiency or support precision medicine, but it definitely alters laboratory infrastructure.

“Change is nearly constant in the clinical laboratory and the healthcare network worlds, and there are many complexities that go with that,” Woodcock said. “With the implementation of new technologies, and the rapidly advancing world of automation in clinical laboratories that have never before been automated, how do we ensure that when we automate new technology it doesn’t negatively impact the quality of the testing process?”

Disruptive Changes are Redefining Clinical Laboratories

As Clinical Lab Products (CLP) points out, medical laboratories have become a reservoir of data that can “guide fact-based decisions to improve operational, financial, and clinical performance throughout their institutions.” As a result, clinical laboratories are increasingly shedding their “traditional and narrowly defined roles” in which “physicians order tests and labs report results.”

Emerging technologies also are ushering change outside of the medical laboratory. Drones soon may routinely transport patient specimens across healthcare networks. Dark Daily has reported on several new drone transport systems under development around the globe. One such system in the US involves UPS, the FAA, and WakeMed. Such high-tech specimen tracking and delivery systems could lead to fewer spoiled samples and possibly save lives, and clinical laboratories are at the heart of these innovations.

Kevin D. Orr (above), Senior Director, Hospital Business at In-Common Laboratories, told Dark Daily that laboratory leaders need to keep up with technology breakthroughs. However, knowing which tools and strategies are worth implementing is not so easy. Orr says diagnostic executives should take advantage of opportunities to “network to understand what is going on in everybody’s backyard, and to leverage some of the strategies, tools, and technologies innovators have used elsewhere.” (Photo copyright: LinkedIn.)

Kevin D. Orr, Senior Director, Hospital Business at In-Common Laboratories, believes technology may help laboratories overcome one major issue—a growing demand for testing services at a time when the laboratory workforce is shrinking, and provincial and territorial global funding is not keeping pace with diagnostic utilization rates. Orr points to digital pathology as an example of a technology that may enable labs to “do more with less” in terms of both funding and staffing.

“As people get older, there’s more demand for healthcare services and because of that more clinical laboratory testing has to be done,” Orr told Dark Daily. “The peak of the Baby Boomers is starting to get sick now. We need to focus on innovations and technologies clinical laboratories are employing to address the overarching issue of doing more with less.”

How Clinical Laboratories Should Demonstrate Value

Woodcock, however, maintains that clinical laboratories also need to do a better job of lobbying for funding, so they have the money needed to implement new technologies.

“Traditionally, when labs are told they have cutbacks, they do their utmost to work within what they have been assigned. But other departments might be jumping up and down, getting more attention, and getting more funding,” she said. “One of the things lab people have to learn—and are getting better at as time goes on—is giving the lab a voice and making known the contributions the lab makes to diagnosis and treatment of patients in a facility.”

The Canadian Diagnostic Executive Forum on October 24-25 at the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel in Toronto provides such an opportunity for laboratory leaders to learn how to leverage technology to create positive change in lab operations.

“We want to inspire people,” Orr told Dark Daily. “We want people to leave this conference excited about what diagnostics is doing and where it’s headed and what other people are doing. We want to show them the bright light at the end of the tunnel, because sometimes when you’re dealing with the negative aspects of no money or no staff or no this or that, it gets pretty awful. We want to breathe some life and show them the rainbow and that the light at the end of the tunnel could be just around the corner.”

The CDEF conference will be hosted by In-Common Laboratories, in conjunction with The Dark Report, Dark Daily’s sister publication. This two-day event will be packed with thought-provoking sessions on digital pathology, next-generation technology, precision medicine, blockchain, sample tracking, and artificial intelligence, as well as updates from across Canada on the latest innovations and technologies being implemented in medical laboratories.

Canadian technology entrepreneur and philanthropist Jim Estill, CM OOnt, CEO Danby Appliances and ShipperBee, will be a featured speaker.

Other speakers include:

To register for this critical learning opportunity, go to https://cdeforum.ca or e-mail: cdeforum19@gmail.com.

 —Andrea Downing Peck

Related Information:

Canadian Diagnostic Executive Forum

Making Headway with Digital Diagnostics

UPS and WakeMed Now Use Aerial Drone for Daily Transport of Clinical Laboratory Specimens: In Australia, Google Wing Initiates Drone Delivery Service