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13 November 2018

Promoting the value of pathology

By Andrew O'Hara

Pathology currently faces several challenges, not least of which is in being able to communicate the value of laboratory services to government. With spending closely scrutinised, being able to do so while at the same time demonstrating return on investment is therefore vital.

Events like National Pathology Week (NPW, 5-11 November) and International Pathology Day (IPD, 14 November) are vitally important for raising awareness amongst the public of pathology and its contribution to local and global healthcare.

In addition, pathologists themselves have a responsibility to be able to communicate the value of laboratory services internally, both within a trust as well as within the wider NHS.

This needs to be done consistently and repeatedly in terms of making sure that pathology continues to be represented at the highest levels of the NHS and that its collective voice as a discipline continues to be heard and acknowledged.

In the UK, professional bodies like the IBMS and the RCPath are instrumental in raising the voice of pathology. The work of these professional bodies in challenging the categorisation of pathology as a back office service, for example, illustrates the challenge facing pathology in being able to communicate the value of its services.

This is necessary in order to address a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of pathology, in that it is not simply a results service, but rather is “the delivery of clinically relevant scientific information and opinion to positively influence patient outcome.”

With pathology at a critical point in terms of its development as a discipline both in the UK as well as around the world, it’s imperative not just that it’s able to survive, but that it’s able to thrive. In order to do so it needs sustained investment, as well as a continuing influx of new staff who are able to see the value in pathology and in being a pathologist.

In addition, pathologists need to be able not just to think critically about the trends affecting their profession, but to be part of the conversation about how these will impact their work.

This is necessary to ensure that they can position themselves to be best prepared for such trends, which will be most relevant to those coming into the profession now - arguably they are the ones that will be affected most.

With multiple stakeholders to satisfy in this, pathologists need to be their own advocates, part of which is in understanding and being able to defend their existence, but also in being able to improve their services, to find new and better ways of providing that vital underpinning to the services that they support.

Laboratories have limited resources with which to carry out their services, but it’s vital that they’re able to continue to do so in their foundational role in healthcare. This is why an understanding of and ability to communicate the clinical and financial value of their services is crucial.

Quality – its maintenance and improvement – makes a significant contribution to the value of services and ultimately to the care of which biomedical science is the foundation.

You can find out more by visiting our Pathology Compliance Management hub.

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