2020 State of the Industry

Dec. 19, 2019

As 2020 begins, one of the top priorities predicted for the clinical diagnostics industry is an expanded role for information technology (IT) to assist with increasing demands for accurate patient test results. Ever since technology successfully moved into the clinical diagnostic environment, lab directors and managers have come to recognize its value, especially when faced with an overworked staff who was responsible for performing time-consuming test procedures. Today, the current decline of physical laboratorians has created a need to “hire” and integrate new technology and automation solutions to keep pace with test demands, while also maintaining test standardization and eliminating the historic risks of hands-on errors that can occur during testing protocols.

In an effort to learn more about how clinical labs are utilizing available IT solutions, Medical Laboratory Observer (MLO) recently conducted a survey of almost 300 respondents who provided insight and comments about their current IT usage and plans for future use. To see what the collected data showed, read our special State of the Industry insert entitled “IT solutions in the clinical lab,” beginning on page 26. This feature is the first of four quarterly special reports MLO has planned that focus on important topics in clinical diagnostics. The remaining three reports scheduled for this year include best practices in lab management in the April issue, disease management in the July issue and molecular diagnostics in the November issue.

We’ve also highlighted artificial intelligence (AI) in the lab in this issue, as a complement to our focus on IT solutions, with research that describes how innovative approaches and algorithms are contributing to efficiency and efficacy in the lab. Current AI solutions and machine-learning options are helping to streamline workflow, in much the same way that existing LIS/LIMS and new IT solutions do, with all-things technological designed to work in digital concert to relieve both the physical and financial burdens faced by many labs today. Along with the challenges that accompany new technology and its adoption in the lab comes the issue of reimbursement that is a constant source of concern for administrations when considering the value of implementing digital solutions and training staff.

Another major source of concern for clinicians, as well as the subject of many lab tests, is the rising number of patients who are diagnosed with diabetes every day. According to the International Diabetes Foundation (IDF), there were 425 million diabetics worldwide in 2018, with that number expected to rise to 642 million by the year 2040. To further stress the importance of early treatment, this issue includes two articles on diabetes, with one that details clinical and diagnostic consideration for diabetes mellitus (DM), and another suggesting that biomarkers play an important role in early diagnosis of diabetes. Both offer insightful research that may provide answers to future disease management.

When looking at the best practices in lab management, administrations must consider not only the advantages of the new technology/equipment, but also what kind of reimbursement and/or return on investment (ROI) it may offer down the line. In addition, questions about scalability, data reliability and the potential for increased efficiency must also be answered satisfactorily before the first dollar is designated for the expense. In these situations, the new technology must prove itself worthy from day one to validate the costs they demand.

Likewise, as increasing patient tests demand more technology, diagnostic labs claim a more important percentage in the continuum of care. As the integral piece that connects many other parts in a new paradigm of healthcare, clinical labs must look to improve tomorrow by embracing the benefits of today’s diagnostic advances. By doing this, new lifesaving technologies can truly save lives in the future.

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