2011: A giant leap

Jan. 1, 2011

Making predictions seems to be as popular at this time of year as is making New Year's resolutions. In fact, year-end predictions are generally more apt to be on target than personal resolutions about saving money, losing weight, learning a foreign language, or travelling to an exotic destination. Take English clergyman John Wilkins' prediction, for example. In 1640, he ventured into the dangerous world of astronomical science (remember that Galileo already had been on the hot seat for challenging the belief that Earth was the center of the universe).

How foolish Wilkins' “Discourse Concerning a New World and Another Planet” must have seemed at the time. Wilkins proposed: “Tis likely enough that there may be a means invented of journeying to the Moon, and how happy they shall be that are first successful in this attempt.”*

In light of such adventurous spirits, we asked our editorial advisory board (also listed at right) to share their insights about what the medical lab can expect in 2011:

Dr. Leland Baskin: “We will see continued emphasis on information management, automation, and consolidation … intended to improve productivity and utilization, and reduce errors and occupational injuries … accompanied by increased government regulation.”

Dennis J. Ernst:  “… lab-related CE delivered via Internet will play an increasing role in staff development as labs look for ways to continually educate staff without incurring travel expenses … [and] with up to 75% of lab errors occurring during the pre-analytic/pre-examination phase of testing, establishing and evaluating pre-analytical benchmarks will remain crucial to lab QI processes.”

Dr. Brad Karon: “… The FDA will begin regulating lab-developed tests and will review new in vitro diagnostic tests with much closer scrutiny than in past years. Clinical labs will be asked to provide the FDA and other government agencies with more examples of harmful events resulting from defective or ineffective lab tests, with the end result being more pressure on these tests' manufacturers to prove safety and effectiveness. More FDA advisory notices will be issued, meaning all of us will need to stay on guard to determine whether we may be offering tests with a potential for adverse events or outcomes.”

Sharon Miller: “Consolidation and increased regulation will be key features. The number of baccalaureate-degree programs to prepare lab professionals most likely will be stable, but continued funding pressures in academe pose a real risk for traditional degree programs. Innovative degree programs [with] online components and a means of sharing faculty presentations among multiple institutions will continue to attract attention. Curriculum content — still grounded in hard sciences — will … evolve to emphasize leadership skills and savvy in dealing with others in team building. Even new professionals will be expected to bring these skills to the lab, along with strength in clinical science core competencies.”

Anne Pontius: “With sweeping changes due to healthcare reform and governmental scrutiny over lab-developed tests, a shift in test menus as well as testing sites may occur … issues to watch include ACOs; physician signatures on requisitions; patient-centered medical home; and meaningful use of EHRs. New molecular tests will continue to be coupled with drugs. Public awareness of medical laboratory scientists' role in healthcare will be highlighted by laboratory associations.”

We have never officially revisited the board's success in predicting, but what fun it will be to tack this page to my bulletin board and review its points at the end of the year. See, I have no patience to wait 329 years like Good Reverend Wilkins did to find out America made a “giant leap for mankind.”**

*”Wacky world of political predictions: Everything you ever feared — and desired — never happened” by Steven Levingston, The Washington Post, January 19, 2010.

**Spoken by Neil Armstrong as he stepped onto the moon's surface on July 20, 1969.


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