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Expanding the role of the Clinical Laboratory


Healthcare across the world is constantly evolving to meet the changing demands of global consumers. An increasing population, advancements in healthcare technology and the growing need for improved & personalised healthcare experiences are challenges which are impacting on the healthcare landscape and influencing the shift to a patient-centric healthcare approach. The clinical laboratory sector, although part of a wider healthcare sector, is facing its own challenges in meeting new demand, particularly in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, besides COVID-19, the consumer interest in clinical services has seen a significant increase as patients today are much more informed due to the availability of diagnostic and disease information and increasing access to their own health information. For laboratories, effectively utilising their resources and streamlining operational costs while providing new value to their customers is the future.


These are just some of the areas we found that will be critical to the success of the clinical laboratory of the future:


New Technology

Digital transformation has become an integral part of modernising not only the clinical laboratory sector but all global sectors into the 21st century. The volume of data that is generated is extensive however, legacy laboratory systems have become rigid in their data sharing capabilities and lack modern functionality, often requiring a high level of human interaction. The job of new and innovative technology is to allow laboratories to implement agile systems that effectively aggregate and manage their data as well as facilitate increased direct communication with patients and providers throughout the healthcare journey.


Automation

Vital to the future of clinical labs is the removal of their manual processes through automation. Artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) technologies can allow labs to streamline workflows, maximise efficiency and help manage operational costs. AI is essential in reducing the number of diagnostic errors, repeat orders of tests and data entry mistakes often made by lab professionals. It can also be used in lab environments to program robotics to complete routine lab work, allowing lab professionals to focus on tasks that require human interpretation. As automation technology becomes even more advanced, more tasks can be delegated to AI and Machine Learning, giving labs opportunities to increase their service capabilities and potentially open new revenue streams.


Leveraging Available Data

This changing attitude in healthcare is important for labs because it opens new opportunities to deal directly with patients and offer enhanced value to their customers. Labs have the potential to leverage their already available clinical data and enable information sharing to provide actionable, clinical insights, driving better outcomes for patients. Laboratory data is the key to new commercial opportunities as laboratories capitalise on the direct to customer market.


Valuable expertise

Laboratories have an important role to play in healthcare as most clinical decisions are based on the services they provide. While the role of the laboratory continues to evolve, one aspect that is often overlooked is the impact their clinical knowledge and expertise could have. Effective use of laboratory insights can enable other healthcare providers to make appropriate evidence-based decisions and has the potential to impact wider aspects of patient care, such as patient safety and resource utilisation.



Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

In implementing innovative technology and providing data-driven insights, laboratories can drive operational efficiencies, better contribute their clinical knowledge and understanding of clinical pathways but ultimately provide direct improvements in the lives of the patients.


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