A masked, female laboratorian posing in a lab

During the COVID-19 pandemic, clinical laboratories across the world have been challenged in many ways, including having to contend with clinically significant variability in test results that are amplified at the international level.

Laboratory medicine professionals have responded to the challenge with initiatives to harmonize reference intervals, action limits, critical result reporting, continuous quality improvement, inventory management, resource allocation, cost of ownership, deployment of automation, and implementation of digital technology transformation systems.

How labs are dealing with these challenges will be discussed during a Roundtable Session, Clinical Laboratory Leadership and Management During a Pandemic: A Global Perspective, on Tuesday, July 26 at the 2022 AACC Annual Scientific Meeting in Chicago. Barnali Das, MD, DNB, PGDHHM, a consultant in laboratory medicine for Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital in Mumbai, India, will explore effective leadership strategies for process re-engineering, time management, resource and personnel management, team development, strategic planning, global harmonization, and cost of ownership.

“In this pandemic, processes need to be streamlined in laboratory medicine to ensure provision of reliable and timely test results and appropriate alliance with brain-to-brain loops, thus enhancing quality of care and patient safety,” Das said, who is also chair of AACC’s India Local Section. “By adopting strategic thinking, embracing innovation, and investing in cross-training and safety measures, laboratory staff can contribute to patient satisfaction, reduced staff turnover, and improved laboratory performance. This contributes to successful operations and, at the same time, improves staff training, job satisfaction, and empowerment.”

Among the topics that will be covered in the session:

Harmonization and standardization of laboratory assays.

“What is considered the normal and acceptable range of different laboratory test results in a particular population have long been debated by experts, largely because levels of markers can change in relation to other biochemicals, biomolecules, and hormones, which themselves vary with race, age, different physiological conditions, and other illnesses and interfering substances,” Das said, who is also executive member of scientific division of the International Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (IFCC) and has worked with different standardization committees of IFCC.

Total laboratory automation and artificial intelligence in routine laboratory testing.

Rapid changes in the diagnostic sector, coupled with advances in technology, have stimulated new approaches for laboratory automation and artificial intelligence in routine laboratory process flows. How are clinical laboratories across the globe employing these technologies to improve operations?

Leadership skills for effective laboratory management.

From team development to stress management to communication, laboratory leaders use various tools to ensure their teams are operating effectively. What are some successful techniques clinical laboratories in different parts of the world employ?

Cost of ownership.

Proper management of both direct and indirect costs is crucial to making operational improvements. Das will explore ways laboratorians can have a dramatic impact on performance using value stream maps.

She will also present results of a survey sent to lab leaders across the globe asking them about practices they follow for pandemic management, process re-engineering, lab safety measures, staff training, stress management, digitization, challenges related to resource allocation, remote reporting, and needs of leadership training.

She will also discuss her collaborative project with Koita Centre for Digital Health of IIT Bombay with Professor Biplab Banerjee on a risk prediction algorithm and model for COVID-19 using routine laboratory assay data.

“During this pandemic, we realized that the laboratory journey may not always come with a planner and roadmap,” Das said. “As unexpected and unprecedented health care needs push cost-burdens onto hospital systems, laboratories are faced with budget constraints while managing demand for higher quality and competitive turnaround time. Efficiently managing these intensifying pressures is critical to the sustainability of laboratory management and requires new strategies to reduce cost burden while maintaining quality.”

Kimberly Scott is a freelance writer who lives in Lewes, Delaware. +Email: [email protected]