Since 1980, Joseph M. Nemmers has held various leadership positions within Abbott diagnostics division. In 2001, he was elected corporate vice president of two major diagnostic division sectors, and the following year became the vice president of the divisions global commercial operations. He was elected to his current position in September 2003, and serves on the supervisory board of Abbott Management GmbH and Abbott Holding GmbH in Germany. Nemmers holds a bachelors degree from Arizona State University and served 13 years as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army Reserve.Dottie Dunham: Mr. Nemmers, you are the new president of the Abbott Diagnostics Division. Congratulations! Can you share your vision for the direction of the company in the next five years, and explain how trends in the clinical laboratory segment of the global marketplace will influence your goals?Joseph Nemmers: In the near term, our number one priority is to address our compliance situation at our Lake County, IL, diagnostics manufacturing facility. This will open up even more channels for us to better meet the needs of our customers and the patients they serve. At the same time, we have made substantial investments in our immunochemistry and hematology businesses to build a strong portfolio of products that we will deliver to market over the next five years, including new automated instrument systems and a full pipeline of important assays. One of the most critical issues facing our laboratory customers is the current labor shortage, particularly the challenge of hiring and retaining qualified med techs. As a manufacturer, our goal is to help our customers deal with this labor gap. Dunham: Based on those trends, what do you see as the most significant challenges that Abbott Diagnostics will face in the near future?Nemmers: One way to address the shortage of labor is by providing automation solutions or consolidated testing platforms. We have invested in products and platforms that are automation friendly, including automation at the instrument/workstation level. An example of this is our new ARCHITECTci8200 system that fully integrates immunoassay and clinical chemistry testing on a single platform. This system requires minimal human intervention, which can help our customers improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their laboratory operations. Advancements in integration, along with the systems state-of-the-art software, can allow one operator to process over 90% of a laboratorys immunoassay and clinical chemistry tests. Dunham: Has the worldwide threat of bioterrorism stimulated any strategic planning within your company? What kinds of testing, information and services have been or might be generated by Abbott in response to past and/or future threats?Nemmers: We have and will continue to provide our scientific expertise to support the governments response to bioterrorism and emergency-preparedness programs. And while we are certainly more sensitive to potential threats, we have not dramatically altered our fundamental planning processes or research-and-development investments. Dunham: Have military situations anywhere in the world had any influence on your companys current policy?Nemmers: Like many companies, we have put travel restrictions in place as necessary and adopted more stringent security measures, but we are continuing to provide our products and services, as well as humanitarian aid, throughout the world. Dunham: How does the technology, such as that in Abbotts AxSYM 5.0 automated immunoassay system and the CELL-DYN 1800 automated hematology analyzer, support or aid the laboratory?Nemmers: Every day, laboratories are asked to do more with less by reducing costs while increasing testing volumes with faster turnaround time. The systems you mention, along with ARCHITECT and our other instrument platforms, underscore our commitment to provide flexible solutions for customers to meet their unique needs and manage their laboratory operations more efficiently.
For example, AxSYM 5.0 features include advanced computer software that allows quicker access to commonly used laboratory data, such as stored patient results, stored quality control results, and the status of test orders. The CELL-DYN 1800 provides a unique combination of features for hematology analyzers, including fast access to patient results and expanded data management capabilities.Dunham: What types of products and/or services does Abbott Diagnostics have waiting in the wings that will be advantageous to the clinical laboratorian?Nemmers: Our focus will continue to be on offering a family of immunochemistry and hematology instruments to serve all customer segments from low- to high-volume to address the need for standardized, automated systems. At the same time, we will continue to expand and support the menu of tests on these systems with new and improved assays in important areas, such as cardiology, infectious disease, therapeutic drug monitoring, and oncology. Dunham: The continuing problem with the shortage of clinical laboratory professionals has given momentum to the development of many products. How has it affected your companys strategy? Nemmers: It reaffirms the importance of our continuing investments in technology that can provide automation solutions to our customers and advance patient care. As discussed, products like the ARCHITECTci8200, AxSYM 5.0 and our CELL-DYN systems support this fundamental strategy. Dunham: Give us some examples of how your development of various systems can benefit the laboratory that is confronted with the personnel squeeze.Nemmers: Our Retest Sample Handler, or RSH, is a good example of what our investments in automation have yielded. This unique technology provides laboratory customers with what they need to stay competitive high-volume capacity coupled with fast and accurate test results. The RSH minimizes operator handling and eliminates testing bottlenecks, improving the management and processing of STAT and routine patient samples. Dunham: In what ways, if any, does Abbott Diagnostics use Web-based activity to provide educational programs for clinical laboratorians? Do you have other programs in mind and, if so, how will those be implemented?Nemmers: Abbott offers a number of e-learning programs to help customers expand their knowledge of the latest in scientific discovery and development. Our educational series called Explorations and Innovations, for example, allows our customers to participate in timely and meaningful conferences via the Internet, saving them the extra expense of sending staff to off-site training. Given todays demands on resources, we are committed to delivering more of these kinds of programs to our customers. Dunham: How does Abbott service its customer base via the Web? How has the Internet changed the way the company does business? In what ways do you plan to expand such interaction in the future?Nemmers: One of our Web-based initiatives is a new system we just introduced called AbbottLink. This system uses remote diagnostics technology that allows our instruments to automatically transmit product performance information to the companys service operations through the Internet. With this system, our service representatives can proactively identify potential technical issues from a remote location, which ultimately helps our laboratory customers maximize instrument uptime and improve their productivity. In addition, through E-Abbott, our customers can place online orders, create revolving orders, receive e-mail shipment notification, and inquire about their accounts. January
2004: Vol. 36, No. 1©
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