Executive Edge conference tackles the good, the bad, and the ugly of lab testing

DATELINE: TORONTO, CANADA—Yesterday and today, an impressive cross section of leaders in clinical lab testing, histopathology, and other health specialties in Canada came together. Their goal was to discuss and debate the future of laboratory testing services in Canada at the 4th Executive Edge conference.

If the future state of lab testing in Canada was the theme, ever-present in the background is the current state of laboratory testing. That’s because, since 2005, a number of news stories about deficiencies and failures in cancer testing at different pathology laboratories in Canada have made headlines across the country.

The most recent example was last spring, when a study of the accuracy of breast cancer testing by pathology labs in the province of Quebec hinted at serious quality programs. With the public on alert, Quebec health program officials ordered an outside laboratory review of almost 2,800 breast cancer cases originally diagnosed in recent years. (See Dark Daily, June 1, 2009, Study Indicates Errors in Breast Cancer Testing in Canadian Province of Quebec).  The results of this review are expected to be ready to announce to the public before the end of the year.

In fact, the Quebec example was offered to the Executive Edge audience by Dark Daily Editor Robert Michel in his keynote presentation to illustrate his premise that two decades of lab consolidation and reduced funding for lab testing might be reaching a point where existing lab testing capabilities in some parts of Canada become stretched too thin to sustain the perfection and consistency maintained over past decades and into the present.

But the counterpoint to your editor’s observations came from the President and CEO of Lifelabs Medical Laboratory Services, Canada’s largest private laboratory company. During her presentation, Ida Goodreau repeatedly identified opportunities for clinical laboratories to add value to patients, to physicians, and to the provincial health authorities.

Executive Edge lab meeting in Canada

Goodreau has an informed perspective. Lifelabs is Canada’s biggest laboratory company and performs 50 million tests per year. Bullish on the future of laboratory medicine in Canada, Goodreau recognized that—until pathologists become more vocal advocates for tapping the value of laboratory testing—it would be difficult to change the budgeting status quo. She urged pathologists and laboratory professionals to look for natural allies and form coalitions as a way to further educate the public and policy makers about the value of laboratory testing. She gave one example where Lifelabs collaborated with specialty physicians and a patient’s disease support group to present a united perspective on how and why changes should be made to encourage better utilization of laboratory testing in support of diagnosis, treatment, and patient monitoring for this disease.

Today’s speaker highlights at Executive Edge include perspectives on molecular and predictive genetic testing by Patrick Terry, President and CEO of Technic Solutions . Terry was a co-founder of Genomic Health (NASDAQ:GHDX) and is active in the personalized medicine movement.

Another fascinating session today will be presented by André Picard. He is the Public Health Reporter at the Toronto Globe and Mail and a widely-read commentator on health issues in Canada. He will speak about “Predicting the Consequences of Underfunding and Understaffing.

Sessions like these are provoking plenty of debate and interesting perspectives. Reactions from the more than 120 industry leaders gathered here at Executive Edge have often been spirited and energetic. There is plenty of optimism that laboratory medicine in Canada is capable of meeting all the challenges in funding, staffing, and new health technologies that lie ahead.

From Toronto, your Dark Daily editor;

Robert Michel

Send your comments and opinions to: rmichel@darkreport.com


Related Information:

Study Indicates Errors in Breast Cancer Testing in Canadian Province of Quebec

Crying wolf over cancer tests

We could learn a few things from the U.S.

Executive Edge speakers