IT innovations are opening new pathways in clinical diagnostics and broadening how we measure and define success.
Healthcare is being reshaped by IT. Some of the most influential solutions transforming the healthcare industry involve the flow of data, be it life-saving information transmitted to hard-to-reach locations following a natural disaster, or the aggregation of patient results on a single screen to accelerate actionable decision-making.
The clinical laboratory environment is a relative newcomer to the widespread adoption of more sophisticated IT solutions compared to other segments of the healthcare system. The demands being placed on these IT solutions to ensure clinicians have the vital information required to accurately diagnose, treat, and monitor patients continue to increase. As a result, IT innovations are opening new pathways in clinical diagnostics and broadening how we measure and define success.
We are constantly talking with and listening to our customers. These interactions produce our most valued insights about the IT solutions that will have the biggest impact in improving lab operations. Our customers need tools that combine data with operational processes to streamline workflow and increase efficiency. They also need innovative approaches that modernize and individualize the way lab professionals continually obtain, retain, and share knowledge.
Increased levels of information and knowledge sharing can help drive—and in some areas, are already leading—an evolution of the IVD industry. Clinical laboratories are prime examples of “knowledge workplaces.” Today’s enormous breadth of assays and testing methods determines clinical care, answers complex questions about treatment protocols, and adds ever greater value to individual patient care.
Increased IT adoption is also a result of resource constraints such as budget pressures and a continuing shortage of qualified clinical laboratory personnel. Now, with the advantages of IT for enhancing the flow of data and clinical know-how, labs can find ways to take on these resource constraints and still do more with less.
Our company has invested in a category of solutions for the IVD industry that has information workflow at its core: Process Management for the Lab. This approach is anchored by a next-generation IT system that integrates data management and operational control across the entire laboratory, consolidating and delivering information in real time. Process Management for the Lab improves the lab’s ability to share clinical knowledge and take action more quickly and efficiently. It also leverages and builds on improvements that labs have already achieved through Lean and Six Sigma projects.
These same goals are pushing the IVD industry to invest more in its people. Our customers are investing in educational tools that help IVD professionals strengthen their capabilities and increase their proficiency at more-complex tasks, improving both productivity and job satisfaction. Inspired by this trend, Siemens has developed a new education and training approach that leverages IT and advanced learning management systems. It allows laboratories to provide competency-based learning anywhere, on all shifts, and at all staff levels, and it nurtures a culture of continuous knowledge sharing.
I believe that these transformative changes in IVD offerings will also alter the way in which we measure our impact in advancing clinical care. With new tools to improve complex analysis and decision making, the questions we ask will break new ground. These questions include:
• Did the laboratory help enhance patient care by shortening its delivery time of actionable results to the clinician?
• Did the laboratory data add clinical value and reduce costs by streamlining seemingly diverse issues, such as reagent inventory management and results reporting?
• Did the laboratory promote a holistic view of patient results across all diagnostic tests?
• Did the laboratory help advance patient safety and potentially improve outcomes by running the right test, ultimately helping physicians choose the right treatment plan and minimizing unnecessary costs?
• Has the laboratory made a greater impact on the healthcare system overall by increasing its ability to support patient care?
Siemens believes in this more expansive definition of success for clinical diagnostics. To optimize the core clinical diagnostics portfolio, we must continue to create solutions that connect, unify, and centralize disparate functions within the laboratory and, subsequently, across the entire healthcare system.
Michael Reitermann is CEO, Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics (Tarrytown, NY). Prior to becoming CEO, Reitermann was responsible for the U.S. imaging organization. He can be reached at email@example.com.