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Outside the Lab Profession, Technology and innovation

Driving Technology for Better Patient Care

Navigating the ever-changing landscape of the medical laboratory is not an easy task. It takes patience and skill, as well as faith that every advancement is a step forward that will benefit our patients in one way or another. In the past few years, we’ve seen innovation in the laboratory take incredible steps forward – from the advent of leapfrog technology that enables rapid diagnostics in underserved areas to laboratory-developed tests that helped stem the onslaught and spread of COVID-19.

In today’s laboratory environment, we find ourselves balancing on the edge of another technology that is becoming increasingly prevalent in the laboratory: Artificial intelligence (AI). Though machine learning is already in place in some aspects of the laboratory – think molecular pathology or output increases in testing – there are still plenty of cutting-edge ways that AI can be used in the laboratory. The innovation of the laboratory knows no bounds.

Though these technological developments and advancements will, and do, help the laboratory better provide high-quality care, the critical element behind all of it is the human component. Pathologists and medical laboratory scientists are the heart of the laboratory, and all the technology in the world cannot replace that. People caring for people – that is what the laboratory is about. When physicians from other departments or healthcare personnel across an organization collaborate with the lab, they’re not fostering relationships with a machine or a test result. The technologies that help the laboratory provide the right test for the right patient at the right time are nothing without pathologists and medical laboratory scientists to give them meaning and context. These relationships have proven time and again that the value of the laboratory cannot be underscored enough.

To disregard the advances in lab technology would be an obvious disservice to those who practice laboratory medicine and the patients they care for. To overlook the role that people play would be even more egregious, as patients do not survive on technology alone. As pathologists and medical laboratory scientists, it’s our responsibility to encourage and inspire the momentum that keeps technology moving forward, while simultaneously ensuring that its benefits are being applied properly to deliver the care patients need. Healthcare and technology will never stop changing, growing, and learning – and neither will we.

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About the Author
E. Blair Holladay

CEO of the American Society for Clinical Pathology

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