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A major shift in laboratories was announced at the AACC, if you read between the lines

By Dennis Matricardi, MS, SM(ASCP)DLM
Clinical Analyst, MD Buyline

Scientists, professors, laboratory professionals, and vendors from a wide array of diagnostic specialties are gathering at the 69th American Association of Clinical Chemistry (AACC) Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo in San Diego this week.

They’ll be presenting topics relating to ways of tackling current issues and showcasing innovations in laboratory automation, data analytics, and diagnostics. Diana Trinh and Dennis Matricardi, clinical analysts from MD Buyline, will be filing reports exclusive to HealthCare Business News from the meetings and expo.

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POC (Point-of-Care) testing has been cannibalizing laboratory testing for about twenty years now, but the sharply renewed interest of laboratory vendors in POC signals a cataclysmic change in the laboratory space. For many years it seemed like the mega vendors of Abbott, Beckman Coulter, Roche, and Siemens had entered the niche of POC because they had to. It was almost like, “Oh, yes, we have POC.”

However, Abbott seemed to pick up on or define the future when they acquired I-STAT in 2003. I-STAT is a hand-held analyzer that can perform a multitude of laboratory tests. I-STATs have been flying off the shelves at Abbott in the last decade. I would venture to say that the i-STAT is the most well-known laboratory instrument in the world. Fast forward to today, and it is clear that the rest of the mega vendor crowd appears to be convinced that Abbott had foresight that the rest of the market was lacking in 2003 – lab consolidation will accelerate with the use of POC testing, and moderate-sized laboratories may cease to exist.

It is Siemens Healthineers that has signaled the shift with the agreement to acquire Epocal from Alere, literally, during the AACC convention. There is a long history between the I-STAT and Epocal’s EPOC blood analysis product line. The same inventor sold the I-STAT and invented the EPOC. But the EPOC never caught fire. I believe it is now poised to explode and create a real sense of worry for Abbott. This deal happened so fast that the EPOC was being displayed at the Alere booth, even though it clearly does not have a future with Alere. Another sign that something new is going on: Werfen/Instrumentation Laboratory is poised to acquire Accriva Diagnostics - Hemochron. The gobbling up of POC products and companies is likely to dominate the laboratory space for months to come. The mega vendors are now becoming fully engaged with POC.
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