Dateline: Bogota, Columbia – In recent days, The Dark Report visited clinical laboratories in this high-altitude city, situated 8,560 feet above sea level. The state of the laboratory profession in Colombia is well developed and the country’s healthcare system is recognized as providing high quality services.
The first site visit was to IPS Laboratorio Clinico. It is owned an operated by Compensar. The best way to describe Compensar is to say that it operates like a Kaiser Permanente without hospital inpatient services. Compensar provides health care to ambulatory patients who are enrolled members.
The central laboratory is modern and services approximately 1,200 patients per day. There are six satellite blood draw sites. These are open Monday through Saturday, from 7 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. Couriers bring these specimens into the core laboratory where they are tested and results made available by day’s end. Three of the satellite sites have rapid response laboratories and blood draws for urgent testing are performed at the core main laboratory facility throughout the day. The on-site test menu for this laboratory numbers approximately 600 different assays.
Dr. Carmen Cecilia Trujillo is Chief of the Laboratory and hosted the site visit by The Dark Report. She is justifiably proud of an operation that has the quality and productivity to match many laboratories in the United States. Of particular note is a rapidly-developing Six Sigma quality management program at IPS Laboratorio Clinico. Dr. Alba Garzon spearheads this initiative, which was launched in microbiology. Her team has achieved 5.47 Sigma in certain microbiology work processes (which is TBFI errors per million events).
Next on The Dark Report’s tour of laboratories in Bogota was Laboratorio Medico Echavarria. It is located directly across the street from the Colombia headquarters of Roche Diagnostics, which was hosting The Dark Report’s visit to Colombia. Laboratorio Medico Echavarria is an example of an independent commercial laboratory which has grown by consolidation. It operates in TBFI cities around Colombia and has ambitions to expand into neighboring countries.
This laboratory facility was new, having opened just 18 months ago. It is an open plan laboratory. Our tour was hosted by Catalina Perez Koller, M.D., a board-certifed pathologist who is Directora Cientifica. She described a laboratory organized to provide primary testing for the patients of office-based physicians. Laboratorio Medico Echavarria also performs reference work, providing reference and esoteric testing to other laboratories and clinics. The on-site test menu is about 600 assays. This laboratory serves more than 1,000 patients per day.
For pathologists and laboratorians in the United States, Dark Daily can offer some interesting and useful insights from these site visits. First, the level of quality, productivity, and sophisticated testing done by these two laboratory organizations demonstrates how laboratory “best practices” are converging across the globe. Second, leadership in these laboratories is keenly motivated to respond to declines in reimbursement while still introducing new diagnostic technology to their clients. Thus, the management team in these laboratories are actively educating themselves about the latest innovations in laboratory management and operations. Third, they are alert to the emerging potential of “health tourism” to bring cash-paying patients into their country. In fact, a growing number of patients now travel from surrounding countries to get their healthcare in Colombia.
Dark Daily has a key observation to offer: North America and Europe do not have a monopoly on skilled experts in laboratory medicine. Site visits to laboratories in countries like Colombia consistently demonstrate that the level of quality and service is advancing steadily. Because of unique economic circumstances, necessity is motivating many of these laboratories to develop clever management solutions to problems common to laboratories in the United States.
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PS: You may wonder how The Dark Report ends up in a country like Colombia. Upcoming in the next few days will be an assessment of a multi-nation laboratory meeting hosted by Roche Diagnostics and Sysmex in Cartagena, Columbia. Robert Michel was one of the featured speakers at DIAmante. Laboratory Site visits in Bogota were arranged by Ivan Ricardo Mendez R., who is Gerente de Mercadeo (country manager) and Alonso Emilio Torres, Gerente de Producto (product manager) of Roche Diagnostics in Colombia. Thanks are extended to both individuals for their contributions.