The State of Laboratory Unions
Hospital laboratory consolidation, underway for several years, is having mixed success as the market shifts. For suppliers, things are unlikely to settle down soon. Successful labs claim to be committed to a common vision and to swift action to institute painful changes. But other labs are stymied by politics, lack of top management support, and reluctance to make difficult decisions quickly. Manufacturers' expectations that consolidation would lead to standardization of equipment and a winner-take-all mentality are starting to come to pass. But the customer base continues to be in more flux than expected.
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A variety of factors, ranging from consolidation to the emergence of genomics, has helped resurrect clinical labs from near death. The nation's two largest labs, LabCop. and Quest, have seen their stock prices shoot up a staggering 600% in the past three years, while a cadre of more specialized labs has ridden their coattails. These labs are looking to genomics to sustain their renaissance, as existing drivers shift and maintaining their growth rate gets tougher.
As major GPOs come under pressure from a variety of sources they are refining their approach to laboratory purchasing, with ramifications for suppliers. Groups are getting tougher on compliance and contracting with fewer lab vendors but the trade-off is less choice for lab members. The more the purchasing process restricts vendors, the more it benefits a few at the expense of many.
The nation's largest GPOs are rethinking the way they contract with diagnostics industry suppliers in light of new workstation consolidation coming on the market. Novation is considering combining immunoassay and clinical chemistry onto one contract; Premier is planning to hold a conference for members on the future of diagnostics and then a meeting of its laboratory task force to think of how to use new technologies.