January 6, 2004
Robin Felder, PhD
Laboratory professionals must learn how medical decision making can be enhanced by the use of next-generation information systems that manage both automation and process-control software. These days, the laboratory should be playing a major role in creating and maintaining a fully automated diagnostic knowledge engine that includes monitoring, control, feedback, and optimization. Autoverification of laboratory results can be the key to rapid assessment and reporting of analytical data, identification of interpreted abnormal data, and development of diagnostic guidelines based on this accumulated data. Computer algorithms can also identify data trends that could become abnormal and identify hidden medical conditions based on automatic interpretation of complex data.
In the future, diagnostic data will be gathered ubiquitously in the home to establish wellness routines and to forecast the onset of disease. Following the appearance of chronic and acute conditions, point-of-care systems may be used to enhance the diagnostic process. Once professional medical intervention is necessary, esoteric testing can then be performed in more traditional laboratory settings. Through the use of process management tools, the laboratory can become an efficient medical partner that contributes substantial interpretive value to clinical care.