At this year’s gathering of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC) in Houston, Dave Hickey, CEO of the Chemistry, Immunoassay, Automation & IT Business Unit at Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics Inc., outlined the firm’s response to those challenges
Increased efficiency of laboratory workflow is key to decision makers during long-term planning, CEO Dave Hickey underlines: ‘Labs are constantly asked to reduce operating budgets and manage staffing levels, while increasing workload volumes. How can they handle the sheer volume of activities that is being thrown at them? To address those challenges, the right instruments and right type of automation solutions need to be developed and implemented. In designing our workflow excellence strategy, Siemens looks at the complete picture of laboratory testing disciplines – including chemistry, haematology, haemostasis, immunoassay, and all the way to point-of-care. Our automation solution provides the pivotal basis for meeting these challenges.
‘At the AACC we’ve introduced the new VersaCell X3. This is the first product of the VersaCell family to connect three instruments through a single robotic interface. For anybody who does not require high-end automation, this is a very suitable solution. Anyone requiring track-based automation should look into our Aptio Automation product family.’
What makes Siemens’ suites stand out in the market?
‘We offer a complete solution,’ he explains. ‘The track may be a means of transporting samples; but, looking at the configurations of the track, there is now more demand to automate the pre- and post-analytical processes and Siemens provides a very comprehensive portfolio in this area. Analysers, middleware and data management are also important. It’s the integration of the entire end-to-end solution that should be evaluated.
‘Labs also want manufacturers to bring new tests to market. To name a current example, we have had a very successful year with our fully automated Vitamin D assay. There is also a lot of dialogue around the role that companion diagnostics and sequencing will have in the future.
‘Our strategy for clinical excellence is driven by defining new tests and developing them as an integral part of our R&D pipeline. It’s a matter of developing the right clinical tests, and making them available on platforms that help address the workflow challenges.’
What size labs does the unit target?
‘Our portfolio fits all testing needs, ranging from fully automated laboratory suites to numerous smaller-scale low-end hospitals. Take the USA, for example. We have a significant presence in 5,000 hospitals, as well as in the large reference and research labs.
‘The US is a key market for us, and we are a major player in all segments. Integrated delivery networks – IDNs – are a crucial part of the US healthcare system and they typically include large as well as community-level based providers.
Individual needs may differ, but the common goal of IDNs is to standardise technology.’
Which market trends influence where you invest your R&D dollars?
‘There’s a continuing trend towards automation, an area in which we are market leaders. The global demand for track-based systems is expanding. On the assay side, labs are focusing on new immunoassays, in particular vitamin D and infectious disease parameters. Europe and North America are mature IVD markets with single digit growth rates, whereas emerging markets – BRIC and the Middle East – show double-digit growth. We consider all these aspects as part of how we decide where to invest our R&D funds.
‘Labs in all markets seek to raise their own profiles, and expand their service offering. One demand we see increasing is for fully automated allergy tests.’
The status of laboratory medicine is not great. How can Siemens help to improve that?
‘We do a lot, for example around scholarships to raise advocacy for labs and the great value they provide in healthcare delivery. We work closely with organisations to drive that awareness. We have to reverse the value equation of IVD, which currently attracts roughly three percent of investment in hospitals, but delivers up to 65 percent of diagnostic insight. Health economics and evidence-based medicine will support this by showing hospital CEOs and CFOs the significant contribution of labs to cost and quality parameters.’