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CONTRIBUTOR / Vahe Ayvazian


Can an industry be trusted too much? Vahe Ayvazian discusses the high level of trust that the healthcare system has in the diagnostics industry. Yet, with that trust comes invisibility: in the medical field, labs are considered to be at the “basement level” of the system, so trusted that they are forgotten. Ayvazian argues that trust in labs has led to their relegation outside the clinical decision making process, and that if we see the reliability of labs as a reason to engage them more, not less, that we will generate better healthcare outcomes.


I'm the Director of Marketing on our U.S. diagnostics business at Abbott, and before that spent 12 years at Procter & Gamble in various marketing roles from healthcare to beauty care, in U.S. based roles, global roles and customer roles.

As you think about the diagnostics industry overall, in the most simplistic sense, it's when you get a lab test done. It's a vital industry. One of the statistics that's talked about all the time within the industry is that 70 percent of clinical decisions are based upon a lab test.

So, when you think about the decisions that clinicians and physicians make every single day, ultimately the majority of those are based upon lab data. I would say that the lab industry takes enormous pride in the quality of the re sults that they provide.

From the physical specimen and how it's processed all the way down to the report generation that goes in there, you could argue within the entire healthcare system there is nothing that is more efficient today and more accurate from a repeatable standpoint than the laboratory testing.

Bumper: The Role of Trust in the Lab Medicine Value Chain

As we think about trust in the industry for diagnostics, it really has been deemed as a manufacturing site. So, when I would ask physicians, when I asked people in the lab, even hospital executives what can the lab do better, and what I hear consistently is increasing the turnaround time of the result and reducing costs.

For me the light bulb really went off that the lab truly is seen as a manufacturing site, and it takes great pride in that, and it should. From that operational efficiency that it can provide. For me, it's a cultural piece within healthcare institutions, and it's a cultural piece within society, as to how much do we really think about it and even care what our laboratories are doing everyday.

They've just been so good at such a small part of their job that there is just enormous trust to say that: yes I'm ordering a test and that result will be accurate. But, again it becomes the question of what did the laboratory, and what did that head of pathology, do to actually ensure that, that physician was interpreting those results correctly or even ordering those right tests.

That is a conversation that in most institutions today isn't happening. The lab is trusted to provide accurate results, but they're not trusted, or quite frankly enabled, to have that conversation where they can provide value in a much deeper way across the value chain of lab medicine and ultimately impact the patient outcomes.

Ultimately, when you think about some of the news of negative results right now, where the assumption was from some companies doing lab testing that the results were accurate when they actually weren't.

People's lives were truly put in danger because the wrong clinical decision was being made based upon the diagnosis from the lab tests. I would flip it to say how do we turn that into a positive thing, and how can we begin to have a conversation as a society, and across our healthcare system where we begin to talk about the importance of, and the pride that should be taken in, the high quality testing that's being done, and the right test being done at the right time.

We want to shift the lab from being a manufacturing site to being a clinical decision support center, and that in many ways is the broader vision that we're trying to drive. Abbott can play a part within that vision, but ultimately we're just a small piece of the larger vision that we're trying to drive for the lab and also for the broader health system.