Products, innovations and productivity: Dr. Wolfgang Hartwig outlines Bayer Diagnostics challenges

Nov. 1, 2003
Interview by Dottie Dunham, Associate EditorDottie Dunham: Bayer Diagnostics provides healthcare products worldwide. What global trends will most affect your companys clinical laboratory segment in the next five years?Wolfgang Hartwig: There continues to be constant change and pressure in the laboratory environment worldwide to increase productivity while still providing the right mix of technology, innovation and good science. The challenge will continue for Bayer Diagnostics to provide the optimum balance of products, innovation and productivity enhancements that are cost-effective, and yet drive improved patient care.Dunham: What kinds of testing, information and services have been or might be generated by Bayer Diagnostics in response to bioterrorism? Does Bayer Diagnostics significantly support American military labs around the world?Hartwig: One of Bayers overall goals is to enhance the safety and environmental care of our employees, customers and the communities in which we work. Bayer is not currently developing any products that are directly related to bioterrorism; however, our instruments can be found in military facilities around the world.Dunham: Bayer Diagnostics automated BNP assay for use in the diagnosis of heart failure, its VERSANT Hepatitis HCV RNA 3.0 assay and its Serum Her-2/neu Oncoprotein test for metastatic breast cancer are among leading-edge products of value to the clinical laboratorian. Can you discuss any products Bayer has on the horizon for testing and diagnosis of other diseases?Hartwig: Our products help diagnose, monitor and guide treatment for an array of diseases. In addition to the above-mentioned assays, we also provide tests for other conditions including infertility, anemia, thyroid disease, allergy, congenital and infectious diseases, metabolic diseases, therapeutic drug monitoring, autoimmune, diabetes, drugs of abuse, immunosuppressants, oncology, and kidney disease. We continue to concentrate on expanding our expertise, setting the stage for future growth as we link diagnostics with treatment in these areas.Dunham: Since last year when you gained FDA approval for an automated cerebrospinal fluid or CSF assay used with the ADVIA 120 Hematology System, what advances, if any, have been made to the system?Hartwig: We continuously enhance our hematology portfolio. We are in the process of preparing to launch new high-end hematology systems that will combine all the advantages of the ADVIA 120 System, plus enhanced software, reliability and slide making/staining capabilities. These systems are designed to deliver the optimum balance of maximum productivity and cost-effectiveness. The new systems will be available in 2004.Dunham: Has the growing shortage of clinical laboratory professionals affected your companys strategy? What challenges has Bayer faced, and what solutions has the company begun to provide to aid in resolving this particular issue?Hartwig: The growing shortage of laboratory professionals has certainly caused laboratories to utilize their staff in different capacities. Our ADVIA-branded product line provides solutions in automation, integration and productivity, enabling the laboratory to optimize the utilization of its laboratory staff. This allows laboratories to perform more complex tests, such as nucleic acid testing, and spend more time with physicians. This trend is occurring not only in response to a personnel shortage, but the need for laboratories to become more economically efficient. Bayer Diagnostics is working to develop common user interfaces to provide flexibility for laboratories to achieve the same quality results, regardless of whether the test is performed in the main laboratory or in a satellite facility.Dunham: What other challenges of consequence does Bayer Diagnostics face in the near future with regard to the clinical laboratory in general?Hartwig: The challenge for Bayer will be to provide our customers with the right balance of technology and good science in reliable, high-quality products to keep pace with the constant change of the clinical laboratory. We are driven by a dedication to detect, monitor and manage disease more effectively, because we know that there can be no treatment without a diagnosis. In essence, it is conveying the value of our diagnostic tests in the delivery of quality healthcare. To do this, we will need to continue to combine new testing technologies with disease-related information and align ourselves through partnerships with other key players in the healthcare arena. By successfully aligning these opportunities, we will be able to significantly support our goal of improving patient care, while providing the optimum balance of cost-effectiveness and productivity that laboratories demand today.Dunham: To what extent is education for the clinical laboratorian part of Bayer Diagnostics program, and does your program include Web-based activity?Hartwig: Education of the laboratorian is paramount to the success of the in vitro diagnostic (IVD) industry today. Bayer believes that education and training are a strong component of our product commitment. We have been a strong supporter of laboratorian education programs through the American Association for Clinical Chemistry, Clinical Laboratory Management Association and our own sponsored programs. In addition to an extensive in-house training program for our customers and employees, and on-site training provided by our sales and service support teams, this year we have Bayer University is an additional channel to provide knowledge to laboratorians that can be accessed any time of the day. It is another innovation from Bayer HealthCare.Dunham: Online communication with customers has expanded for a majority of companies in the healthcare business. Since Bayer won the 2002 Omega Management Group North Face Scoreboard for outstanding customer service, it is evident that customer satisfaction is important to your company. Does this apply to online communication, as well? How has it changed the way Bayer does business? Does the company plan to expand such interaction in the future and, if so, for what purposes?Hartwig: We are pleased to have been recognized by Omega for the second consecutive year. Customer satisfaction is a key driver of our business, and good communication with our customers is essential to our success. The role of online communication is clearly an expanding area in the IVD industry. We have programs in e-service for remote diagnostics and e-learning for continuing education through the Internet. We are exploring ways to take this connectivity to new heights in order to continually raise our level of service and improve the quality of customer interactions.
Wolfgang Hartwig, PhD, is president of Bayer HealthCare, Diagnostics Division. He joined Bayer AG in 1982, in 1991 was appointed head of Chemical Research, and in 1993, transferred to Bayer Corp. in the United States as senior vice president and head of Pharmaceutical Research. In 1996, he joined the management team of the Pharmaceuticals Business Group.
Prior to joining Bayer, Dr. Hartwig studied organic chemistry at the University of Gottingen, Germany, where he received his doctorate in 1979. He was than a post-doctoral fellow under Professor Derek Barton at the Institut de Chimie des Substances Naturelles in Gif-sur-Yvette, France for two years. In July 1999, Dr. Hartwig was awarded an honorary professorship at the University of Munster, Germany.                                                                             
November 2003: Vol. 35, No. 11
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