NEW YORK (360Dx) – With large labs expanding and qualified staff in short supply, diagnostic companies are seeing greater demand for their automated, integrated clinical chemistry and immunoassay systems, diagnostic company executives said recently at the 70th American Association for Clinical Chemistry Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo in Chicago.
In response to economic and operational pressures, testing is becoming more centralized, according to executives. "With that, of course, the complexity of solutions increases, and when you look around industry, there are only a handful of companies that can manage that complexity and offer those solutions," Roche Diagnostics CEO Roland Diggelmann said on the sidelines of the conference, where the company demonstrated its Cobas integrated clinical chemistry and immunoassay systems that are a primary focus of its largest diagnostics segment — centralized and point-of-care solutions.
This industry trend is at least partly responsible for continued growth in Roche's centralized and point-of-care solutions business, he noted.
Similarly, some of its business rivals have reported regulatory approvals or growth in sales of new central lab clinical chemistry and immunoassay instruments.
During a presentation at AACC, Siemens Healthineers' executives said that they expect rapid uptake of their newer systems that were developed with the demands from customers for integrated modular systems in mind.
And Ortho Clinical Diagnostics spoke about its plans for two platforms being developed for different lab markets with different needs.
"More testing is happening all the time, and that increase in volume presents challenges when laboratories are already struggling to attract and retain qualified staff," Jay Snyder, Ortho's vice president of business fields, clinical laboratory platforms, and solutions, told 360Dx. "Decreasing reimbursement, budgetary constraints, and a regulatory environment that is ever changing makes it more difficult for labs to keep up."
As Diggelmann said, for vendors developing the instruments, the focus needs to be on providing customers with solutions that help them run their labs more efficiently and effectively.
"It's not just about providing instruments and assays, it's about consulting with customers, providing workflow solutions around how a sample flows through the lab, and it's about the informatics around it — how you move the data that you generate," he said. "You've seen us invest in what we call the integrated core lab for many years now. It is a basis for how we develop our portfolio — from modular systems that can be configured exactly how the laboratory needs it."
Meanwhile, according to Michael Reitermann, a member of the managing board and president of the diagnostics segment at Siemens Healthineers, growth in its Atellica Solution is reflected in "major themes" that the firm has identified as part of its strategic imperative to transform care delivery. They include enabling providers to deliver high-value care; helping healthcare systems and labs better manage economics and resources; engaging more broadly with patients around chronic disease diagnostics; and expanding the firm's presence in digitalized healthcare.
The company said that by the end of its fiscal third quarter, the firm had shipped more than 560 units of its new integrated Atellica immunoassay and chemistry system, and before the end of its fiscal year, the firm anticipates the number will reach between 800 and 1,000. By the end of 2020, Siemens is targeting shipment of more than 7,000 analyzers.
Hospital Universitario La Paz in Madrid, among the largest hospital systems in Spain, has implemented the Atellica Solution in its automated laboratories. According to Antonio Buño Soto, head of the clinical pathology service at the hospital system, Atellica is "a new concept in lab management that will enable us to improve the organization of our laboratories.
"It will permit our staff to dedicate more time to our clinical needs instead of manual operations; it will facilitate fast and efficient triage of patients presenting with critical clinical conditions; and it will also will address the need for improved medical care during [suspected acute myocardial infarction events]," he said during Siemens Healthineers' presentation at AACC.
Susan Dawson, clinical laboratory services manager at Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago and a recent early adopter of the Atellica solution in the US, said during the presentation that the system is already helping its laboratory technicians deal with increasing testing volumes, reducing stress, and eliminating manual processes.
"That's a huge advantage for us, for the patients we serve, and for doctors and nurses," she said. "Budgets have not increased, they have decreased; and the number of technicians has not increased, it has decreased. So, getting the best out of the time and talents of my staff is really important to me, and it's important to the hospital."
Large health systems, particularly those that expand through the consolidation of diverse hospitals and clinics, recognize that standardizing to one vendor can allow them greater buying power and improve consistency and data uniformity.
At the Clinical Virology Symposium (CVS) hosted earlier this year by the American Society for Microbiology, for example, lab directors from Sanford Health and Geisinger Health described their efforts to standardize influenza testing in their centralized and decentralized settings, work that involve many moving parts.
Installations of large, integrated systems that are modular is growing in response to lab expansion, but at the other end of the spectrum, you see customers moving more toward testing at the point of care, Diggelmann said.
These two trends are not mutually exclusive, he noted. "If you do point-of-care testing in isolation, it's not going to help you when the patient moves to the next stage of testing, so the link between the two — centralized and point-of-care testing — is important, as is the comparability of the tests that you provide."