Across 300+ lab leader interviews during Q4 2023, the importance of workflow and digital continued to be high on the list of priorities. Lab directors and managers routinely organize around four key areas that will be central to decision-making, service requirements, training, skillset development, and clinical outcomes in 2024 and beyond.
Traditional lab diagnostics often involve manual processes, working across sites (with a push to outpatient), and variability as IDNs expand and integrate acquired labs/facilities. This coupled with staffing challenges and the variability of testing volumes have caused an uptick in customer focus on IT-enabled solutions.
Automation is significantly reducing the burden on laboratory staff by automating repetitive tasks. Robotic process automation (RPA) is enabling the handling of routine sample processing, freeing up skilled lab staff to focus on more complex analyses and interpretation of results. This not only enhances overall productivity but also minimizes the likelihood of errors, leading to more reliable diagnostic outcomes. Going forward, we expect to see an acceleration of automation adoption from targeted task to include the total lab.
 Connectivity & Data Interoperability
One of the key advancements lies in enabling a connected ecosystem where diagnostic instruments, IT systems, and healthcare professionals collaborate seamlessly. The ability to share and access data in real-time promotes more informed decision-making. Furthermore, interoperability ensures that patient data can be easily transferred between different healthcare settings, fostering a more comprehensive approach to diagnostics and treatment. As physicians are taking a greater role in the diagnostic process, connectivity and interoperability between relevant stakeholders, systems, and IT are only becoming more important.
 Enhanced Accessibility & Patient Involvement
As IT and automation redefine lab diagnostics, there is a growing emphasis on making healthcare services more accessible. Telemedicine, remote diagnostics, and mobile health applications are becoming integral components of the healthcare ecosystem, allowing patients to receive timely diagnostic insights from the comfort of their homes. Additionally, the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has increased patient ownership over care. As a result, we’re increasingly seeing patients present in outpatient settings to request diagnostic testing. This shift towards enhanced accessibility is paving the way for personalized medicine, tailoring treatment plans based on individual patients and their requests.
 Security & Regulatory Challenges
While the future of IT and automation in lab diagnostics is promising, challenges such as data security, regulatory compliance, and the initial costs of implementation must be addressed. Collaborative efforts between healthcare providers, technology developers, and regulatory bodies are crucial to establish robust frameworks that ensure the responsible and ethical use of these technologies. This reality means that diagnostics companies need to start engaging with the IT customer in addition to traditional clinical stakeholders.
Because of this evolving landscape, all diagnostics organizations need a point of view on these topics and should be preparing to have conversations with traditional and non-traditional customers. Staying ahead as a thought partner on these topics will support longer-term success and higher PWin in the short term.
Reach out to BCE’s Diagnostics team Richard Crumb and Peter Mansfield to learn more about our insights and work in the space.