Hospital-based clinical laboratories are facing threats in various forms including the changing face of ambulatory care. I described this threat in a recent blog note (see: Retail Drug Stores Emerging as Healthcare Hubs for First-Tier Primary Care). The basic problem for pathology is that inpatient admissions are decreasing and new ways to deliver ambulatory care will siphon patients away from hospital ambulatory care settings and hospital-based testing. This is only one challenge facing pathology and the clinical labs. We are in urgent need of a pathology conference with a strategic orientation that can provide answers about how to respond to the changes that are occurring in healthcare delivery and the lab testing market.
The long defunct Futurescape of Pathology conference sponsored the the CAP Foundation was such a strategically-oriented conference. It was launched in 2007 and took place from that year through 2011 with no conference in 2010 (see: Pathology 2.0 - Nine Years Later) Here's a key paragraph from the introductory remarks of Dr. Mary Kass, M.D., at the conference in 2008 to give you a sense of the orientation of the event (see: Futurescape of Pathology 2008 Conference: Welcome and Introductory Comments):
What does the future of pathology look like in an era of personalized medicine? How will personalized medicine impact the way we practice in the next 3 to 5 to 10 years? What is really going on with the biomarker race? What is industry's role in the emergence of this new pathology? And what practical tools can you take away from this conference that will benefit you in your practice? These questions and more will be answered here this weekend. You're going to hear some very exciting, but provoking, information. We hope that you will get involved in the discussion.
Here is the detailed conference schedule from 2011 (see: 2011 Schedule). It's important that you take a look at it. Although it occurred seven years ago, almost all of the topics presented are still vital. As you can also see from this schedule, the conference format was perfect for addressing strategic issues: multiple, relatively short lectures by pathologists, scientists, and vendor representatives commenting on challenging issues.
Here's my short answer about why I think that the Futurescape conference was discontinued: it was not financially viable. The vast majority of pathologists today have little or no interest in grappling with strategic questions. They are just trying to get through their work for the day. Hence, paid attendance was below expectations. On the other hand, companies in the lab diagnostic space spends millions yearly for strategic advice about the future of pathology and the clinical laboratories. I have some ideas about how a pathology organization could resurrect the conference in a financially viable way. I present them below:
- Plan a conference with a relatively small hotel footprint, limited to perhaps 200 registrants. This will result in a relatively low cost event. One hotel ballroom will suffice.
- Solicit 12-15 vendors in the pathology and clinical lab space who would send representatives to listen to the lectures and help underwrite the conference so it doesn't run at a deficit. I don't personally think its important to have a vendor display area -- the sponsoring vendors would send their representatives mainly to listen. Vendor representatives would also participate in the Q and A sessions so CME would not be provided.
- For the faculty presenting at the two-day meeting, choose, say, 15 of the country's leading experts on the key topical areas in pathology and lab testing. Each of them would speak for 30 minutes to discuss major progress in their specialty and also address how to adapt to the changing environment. Each of them must be comfortable with long-range thinking.
- Intersperse panel discussions between these lectures to weigh the ideas presented and place them in a larger vision of about the future of pathology and lab testing. Vendors should be represented on these panels but they are generally constrained from discussing their future plans/products for competitive reasons.
- Publish a summary white paper after the conference to capture all of the lecture slides and panel discussions. This would also be an asset to build on for subsequent conferences.
Anyone organization out there interested?