Well, while the title alluringly suggests so, this was not a conference for reporting spicy hot ground-breaking news like twelfth generation ultra-high through(the roof)put sequencing, full biome DTC chiponomics or gene-enhanced elisaluminetics or what have you. I’m kind of glad it wasn’t.
Instead this was a down to earth meeting where labs presented their experiences with molecular methods that are used every day in labs. Tests actually ordered by physicians in real-life medical settings. Methods are still PCR and sequencing…..and they are still used in microbiology (including virology), oncology and genetics… but, that’s it basically.
Being a diagnostic lab-professional I had many valuable insights to help in my everyday routines, which is what was expected from the meeting. I’m not going to blog that since it has limited general interest. I’d like to however, expand on three trends that made me especially happy to see:
1. Economy: Many of the speakers emphasized the skewed nature of health care funding. Diagnostics normally receive between 0,5 and 5 % of the total health care budget. Usually, diagnostics is also one of the first places were budget cuts are effectuated. This stands in a mind boggling contrast to the potential savings one could achieve by investing in more testing. A sobering example is the swine flu testing policy applied by my own country which is……..don’t test. In fear of capacity problems and over-diagnosing, the recommendations have been to stay home for a week if you have flu like symptoms – in addition you are strongly advised not to go see your doctor and doctors are advised not to test those patients that violate these recommendations. Of course, this does not work very well, labs are still swamped by swine flu samples, but the net result, nevertheless is the huge cost of absence from work and an immense amount of people worried for no good reason. Testing everyone, I strongly believe, would have been a lot cheaper……and…..although I am admittedly not objective in the matter, I think extensive testing should be a general principle. Investment in diagnostics is a good investment…..over diagnosing I simply do not believe in. Feeding diagnostic knowledge down to the treating physicians on the other hand is a real problem. But, a solvable one.
2. Networks: Many speakers spoke of collaborations between labs. In the research field such collaborations are common and acknowledged by most as a necessity. Not so much in the diagnostic lab until know. It makes me very happy to see that this is changing.
3. Web-tools: The above collaborations are of course aided by interaction on internet. It would be strange if not at some point, the facebook spirit didn’t reach diagnostics too. Now it seems, it have or at least is starting too. In addition, web 2.0 diagnostic tools are becoming more and more accepted, and several talks mentioned such tools. This I found so exiting, I will cover them in a separate post.