The diagnostic marketplace in 1990 Essay

The U.S.

market for in vitro diagnostic testing products will morethan double between now and 1990, according to one firm that industryand reference laboratories rely on for long-range strategic planningconsultation. While every kind of testing site will share in thegrowth, the breakdown of increases predicted by boston Biomedical Consultants may surprise you. For example, in constant 1983 dollars, hospital laboratories areseen spending 11 per cent more per year on diagnostic products. On theother hand, sales to independent labs will climb at a rate of only 6 percent. Clinics and physicians’ offices are tagged for hefty growthrates in product consumption–19 and 16 per cent, respectively–butthat’s a widely anticipated trend. Another area of ambulatorycare, however, is often overlooked: patient self-testing. BostonBiomedical looks for this area to start soaring in the next severalyears, with annual product sales increases on the order of 27 per cent. Figure I shows how much of the diagnostic products market each ofthese segments accounted for last year and how much they will accountfor in 1990.

The dollar totals cover assays for full-service labs; kitsfor emergency rooms, intensive care units, physicians’ offices,clinics, and home use; and DNA probe products. Note that the relative standings among testing sites won’tchange drastically by 1990, in the consulting firm’s view.Hospital labs will lose just 2 percentage points from their currentpredominant position as diagnostic product customers and will stillaccount for roughly two-thirds of all sales by manufacturers. Otherkinds of testing sites may demonstrate greater growth, but they beginfrom a much smaller volume base.

The projections were presented at the recent American Associationfor Clinical Chemistry meeting in Washington, D.C. Henry M. Weinert,president of Boston Biomedical, says DRGs will encourage more laboratorytesting at hospitals. Lab work will be needed both to determine thepatient’s diagnostic classification and to help decide how quicklythe patient can be discharged.

“Diagnostic testing is a veryeffective way for the hospital to manage shorter patient stays,” henotes. “It also will be used a lot before the patient is admittedto make sure taht he or she qualifies for admission.” With hospital laboratories seeking more outpatientbusiness–capitalizing in part on the loyalty of their attendingphsicians–and physicians’ offices stepping up their testingactivity, independent labs will slow down in growth, Weinert says.

Thepresidents of large reference labs were bullish about their prospects inthe DRG era when interviewed for our April 1984 cover story, but Weinertcan’t see any significant new markets opening up for them. As for that rapidly growing home test market segment, Weinert saysit will involve ethical products for the most part, employed by patientsunder the guidance of physicians. Monitoring of chronic diseaseconditions (such as whole blood glucose test strips used by diabeticpatients at present) and of aggressive therapy (theophylline test stripsat present) hold strong potential for volume gains. Pregnancy andovulatory time test kits, which may be purchased without a prescription,are also part of the home market.

He observes that a good deal of “gloom and doom” has beenvoiced about the overall outlook for diagnostic testing. The futurelooks much brighter to him.

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