Speakers at FiLM conference emphasize that laboratories must organize to support ongoing integration of clinical care
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND: As you read this, several hundred pathology and clinical laboratory leaders are gathered in Birmingham, England, today to learn about the latest trends and most important developments in healthcare and laboratory medicine. They have assembled to participate in the Eighth Annual Frontiers in Laboratory Medicine (FiLM).
The short term news for pathology laboratories in the United Kingdom is discouraging. The National Health Service recently declared a goal of reducing spending on laboratory testing by £500 million (US $807.2 million) in upcoming budget cycles. This represents a reduction from current funding levels of about 15%.
There is considerable unease among the U.K.’s pathologists, clinical biochemists, and other laboratory professionals about this recent development. That’s because pathology laboratories in the United Kingdom have been under sustained financial pressure.
In part, this is due to increased lab test utilization by general practice clinics in recent years as they responded to a national program designed to encourage early detection of disease and active intervention. In responding to this increased demand for testing by general practice clinics, the hospital-based pathology laboratories often did not get an increase in their budget from their parent acute care trust.
These reasons are why there is caution and concern among pathologists, clinical biochemists, and laboratory scientists throughout the United Kingdom. During the presentations at FiLM, there was keen interest in speakers who offered informed perspectives on how pathology laboratories are likely to change in structure and organization.
There’s been plenty to learn. Daniel T. Jones, founder and Chairman of Lean Enterprise Academy of Goodrich, England, described how some of England’s most innovative hospitals are using Lean to streamline care pathways and improve the patient experience. In particular, these hospitals are using Lean to further integrate clinical care. In turn, provides clinical laboratories with opportunities to contribute substantial value by aligning lab testing services to support the new integrated care pathways.
Carrying that theme of closer integration of care in hospital settings was Jeffery L. Meyers, M.D., Director of Anatomic Pathology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Myers has an active role at the University of Michigan in fostering more collaboration between laboratory scientists and pathologists and the physicians they serve within the health system.
Meyers demonstrated the tight links between efforts to improve patient safety in the pathology laboratory and increased collaboration with physicians. He shared the results of several improvement projects that addressed such activities as reducing specimen identification errors and revising pathology reports in ways that add value to the referring physicians.
If there is a common theme to the speakers during the first day of FiLM, it is the need for clinical laboratories to actively support integration. All the speakers from both the United Kingdom and the United States provided examples of how long-standing silos within their respective health communities are breaking down.
Collectively, the experience of these speakers confirms that clinical and operational integration is a trend with momentum. This is a reminder that pathologists and laboratory managers should be preparing their laboratory to support tighter integration of healthcare services in the communities that the serve.