Across the laboratory industry, there is keen curiosity about how imaging giants Siemens and General Electric plan to integrate in vitro diagnostics with in vivo diagnostics. Executives from both companies have not been detailed in their public statements about how integration of these two medical disciplines is likely to occur. But recently the opportunity presented itself for me to learn more about this subject.
Last week, I was privileged to co-chair a laboratory management meeting conducted by Siemens Medical Solutions Diagnostics in William Shakespeare’s home town of Stratford-upon-Avon, England. This was the third annual Process Management Meeting Siemens has produced for its laboratory customers in the United Kingdom. My co-chair was David Ricketts, Laboratory Manager at North Middlesex University Hospital in London, England.
One session at this meeting was targeted specifically at the topic of integrating in vitro and in vivo diagnostics. In a point/counterpoint discussion, Ricketts challenged Nico Arnold, the newly-appointed Head of Europe for Siemens Medical Solutions Diagnostics, to lay out the company’s strategy and give everyone in the meeting a better understanding of how Siemens’ intends to proceed to achieve integration of these two diagnostic disciplines.
Nico Arnold’s message was simple and clear. “Going forward, laboratory customers of Siemens will see a continued commitment to both the latest in lab test technology and a high level of value-added service,” he stated. “With its recent acquisitions, Siemens has become the world’s largest player in immunoassays and is one of the top three largest in vitro diagnostics (IVD) manufacturers globally. Siemens fully intends to be at the forefront of laboratory medicine, just as it is a leader in radiology and imaging.”
Arnold then emphasized that integration of laboratory medicine and radiology services can only be successful so long as Siemens maintains state-of-the-art technology. It will be the intersection of these evolving technologies that will create opportunities to integrate the two disciplines, thus delivering increased value to physicians. With its laboratory customers in the United Kingdom (UK), Siemens Medical Solutions Diagnostics was consistent in its message that integration will be an ongoing, but evolutionary, strategy within the company.
Lab managers and pathologists in the United States will also be interested in several other developments revealed at Siemens’ process management meeting. Just as in this country, UK laboratory leaders are taking active steps to improve operational performance, streamline workflow, and use quality management principles to raise quality and service even while reducing cost and eliminating waste.
For example, the laboratory of John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, England (associated with Oxford University School of Medicine) has reduced average test turnaround times using process re-engineering and new instrumentation arrangements. Richard Taylor, BSc, Ph.D., FRCPath, a Consultant Clinical Scientist at the laboratory, described the management initiatives which achieved those outcomes.
Lean, Six Sigma, benchmarking, and best practices were also discussed in detail and in multiple presentations. Like in the United States, laboratory administrators in the United Kingdom are willing to use a variety of new management approaches and methods.
One interesting statistic illustrates the scale of the challenge in the United Kingdom. During his presentation on using Lean principles to improve laboratory workflow and quality, Tony Currell, CSci, FIBMS, the Clinical Biochemistry Service Manager at St. Helens and Knowsley NHS Acute Trust in Merseyside, England, showed a slide that tracked the number of medical technologists in the United Kingdom. Since 1990, that number, about 20,000, has remained virtually unchanged for 17 years. Yet, over that same period, there has been a steady increase in both the number of lab tests on the menu and the volume of laboratory specimens tested. These facts demonstrate how the laboratory profession has managed to sustain laboratory services by using automation, new technology, and quality management methods to squeeze every bit of productivity out of laboratory resources.
Your travelling Dark Daily Editor,
Robert L. Michel
P.S. For those of you keenly interested in how laboratory medicine and radiology is destined become an integrated service, there will be an opportunity to get insights into Siemens’ plans and strategies at the upcoming Executive War College in Miami on May 10-11, 2007. Dave Hickey, Vice President of Strategic Marketing and Planning, Siemens Medical Solutions Diagnostics, Tarrytown, New York, will speak on “Full Service Diagnostics: The Coming Convergence of Imaging, Informatics, and In Vitro Diagnostics (IVD). You can access the full details using the links below. Take action today and join us in Miami.
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