October 1, 2021
2 min read
A massive influx of test requests due to the surge in COVID-19 cases has been pushing small and mid-sized laboratories beyond capacity. These labs likewise battle with shrinking reimbursements, dwindling workforce, and supply chain disruptions.
The good news is that more labs have made remarkable investments in automation and digitization, resulting in significantly improved operational efficiencies and substantial revenue and growth in the medium and long term.
In May 2020, when COVID-19 was peaking in the country, only 23 laboratories across major regions had real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RRT-PCR) testing capability.
The pandemic has exacerbated existing operational challenges, such as staff shortages, outdated equipment, and manual processes, spreading lab resources and personnel too thin to handle a large volume of test requests.
Labs were pressed to speed up turnaround time while maintaining workplace safety, workforce planning, and social distancing.
Similarly in the United States, routine testing was more than 100% of pre-pandemic baseline levels as of December 2020. As vaccination efforts intensify globally, COVID-19 testing is likewise expected to increase through 2020 and throughout 2021.
By speeding up their automation and digitization initiatives, small and mid-sized laboratories tackled the operational challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a study, workflow automation and digitization have enabled small labs with just two technicians to conduct 5,000 tests a day. Manual lab processes were eliminated.
Time and resource-constraining processes, such as patient registration, scheduling, test requests, result validation, and communication are now streamlined and integrated within a centralized solution. By digitizing information, labs are able to eliminate inaccuracy issues, resulting in faster and more precise testing and results.
In the Philippines, the acceleration of digital transformation across the laboratory industry resulted in the increase in the number of state-of-the-art labs.
At present, 279 laboratories and hospitals in the Philippines capable of conducting either or both RRT-PCR and cartridge-based PCR tests for COVID-19 cases are now accredited with the Department of Health.
According to a recent survey of lab professionals conducted in the US, technology investments are expected to accelerate turnaround time (80%), improve the quality of their services (74%), and reduce costs per test (63%).
Labs that adopted automation and digitized their operations actually reaped said benefits and more. A study by McKinsey revealed that labs that actually successfully completed their digital transformation now enjoy the following advantages:
Based on economic forecasts, the global clinical laboratory service market will grow from $214.9 billion in 2021 to $288.7 billion in 2028. Labs are expected to adopt and implement "technological advancements to enhance productivity and reduce operational costs” as well as “create opportunities for interoperability and automation”.
This means labs going digital are expected to further expand, attract more healthcare consumers, and strengthen their respective positions in the market.
COVID-19 has reshaped and helped evolve healthcare demands and the role of clinical labs. Small and mid-sized labs, in particular, will soon see their work go far beyond running lab tests.
"Today’s clinical laboratories are expected to lead evolving strategies in diagnostics, treatment, and cost-efficiency,” said Tracy Roth, a noted expert on healthcare consumerism, healthcare analytics, and data science. “These include optimizing operational effectiveness and test turnaround time, meeting value-based healthcare reimbursement targets, and exceeding consumer expectations.”
The adoption and implementation of automation and digitization technologies by Philippine-based small and medium-labs are paving the way towards a bright future.
Dashlabs.ai, for one, is committed to facilitating your lab’s transition from a conventional facility to a technology-driven, highly automated establishment that is future-ready and resilient to any global health crisis.
Written by Misfits for Dashlabs.ai and copyedited by NPC and ACC.