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Pathology: How to avoid running a video store

19 Aug 2014, by Informa Insights

Len Moaven, Clinical microbiologist at Laverty Pathology
Len Moaven, Clinical microbiologist at Laverty Pathology

Len Moaven, Clinical Microbiologist at Laverty Pathology talks to us about his personal view on the challenges faced by modern pathology.

When I graduated from Nottingham Medical School in 1986, David Cook – a computer programmer, founded Blockbuster. In 1994 it was sold for $8 billion. In 2004 it had 9000 stores and 60 000 employees. In 2010 it went bankrupt and this year it essentially closed down.

Despite being a market leader with significant customer knowledge, clever inventory management and a strong brand it failed to make the transition from mortar to clicks.

It failed to recognise online rentals, kiosks, streaming and all the nouse of iTunes and Netflix.

What happened? They became stuck in an old paradigm. Intellectually and emotionally they were still browsing their corner store on a Saturday evening (what a nostalgic memory).

This is the challenge for pathology. I believe that we are in an even more precarious position because of our medical baggage.

We need to free our minds. 

There are some things like federal funding that we are simply at the mercy of the crown. For example, the unilateral decisions that marked the early days of the last federal government.

However, there are many areas that we have direct control.

I believe that pathology will become more patient centric. Patients are willing to pay for tests. We need to recognise the human condition and the need for anonymity. I see nothing wrong in a patient wanting to test themselves for sexually transmitted diseases and to pay for it themselves. I think we need to re-visit our ideas of advertising to patients and allowing them to request tests. Is there anything wrong (or good) with this?

Patient’s should always get a copy of their results… There is nothing that should stop us having a direct relationship with the patient.

What about our bricks? With the inevitable decline in funding we will still need to maintain our improvements in efficiency.

I think outsourcing is part of the key. Labour costs a tenth of the price in India, Vietnam or the Philippines. There are very obvious clerical tasks that can be performed overseas including data entry, accounts (billing etc.), and many phone enquiries – from booking home visits to location and opening hours.

Len Stats

Can we outsource any aspects of the physical tests? Many Australian institutions already send DNA to China for analysis.

IT will always be a significant driver. We all have a favourite dream, but in the near future I cannot see why home visits are not booked online, put into Google maps, and a route sent to the collector’s in-car GPS, and the scanned request sent to their iPad. Or, data entry direct from medical software and SMS results to doctors and patients… Finally the digitised slide… or my holy grail the automated microbiology lab.

I believe that centralisation still has a way to go. We already have hub and spoke models for public and private pathology in each of the states. I think we will move to an Australia based model in the next 5-10 years. For example, a mega lab at Badgery’s Creek.

I know that much of this is an anathema to many pathologists, but we should recognise our memories of the now for what they will become – Nostalgia.

Len will be speaking at the upcoming National Pathology Forum on the 8th and 9th September in Sydney. Join Len and many other industry experts at this 5th annual event. For more information about the forum program and to register, please visit the National Pathology Forum website.


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