Over the past year, research has been critical to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Each new discovery pushed us one step closer to finding a solution that would help diagnose patients and provide them the high-quality care they needed to return to health. Now, as we turn a major corner in this fight, the research produced by the laboratory is still critical to patient health and also to ensuring our preparedness for the next pandemic we encounter.
In this issue of Critical Values, our esteemed editors of AJCP and Laboratory Medicine journals, Steven H. Kroft, MD, MASCP, and Roger L. Bertholf, PhD, MASCP, take a look back at how the research around COVID-19 has evolved since the start of the pandemic. They review what worked and what we’ve learned, and how we can use that information going forward, both for this pandemic, as well as any pandemics we may experience in the future. The editors reflect on, “the extraordinarily rapid pace at which both the pandemic and the body of knowledge related to it evolved, which necessitated putting reliable information in the hands of healthcare practitioners as quickly as possible.” And because of this, our journals were able to create streamlined processes to get information into members’ hands quickly.
In our April issue of Critical Values we wrote about two new recommendations around test utilization for COVID-19. Since that publication, two more recommendations have been made by the ASCP Effective Test Utilization Committee, continuing its collaboration with the ASCP Commission on Science, Technology and Policy, added another two recommendations, bringing our COVID recommendation total to four. The two new recommendations address issues in the testing management of asymptomatic patients, write our authors, Lee H. Hilborne, MD, MPH, FASCP, DLM(ASCP)CM, and Gary W. Procop, MD, MS, MASCP, and specifically target the handling of patients with positive antigen tests and the use of respiratory viral panels in patients without signs or symptoms of COVID-19.
This issue also features an Executive Summary of the extraordinary study ASCP conducted with the help of the University of Washington Center for Health Workforce Studies. There is a serious concern about the dwindling numbers of people entering the laboratory workforce, even as demands on the workforce continue to rise. The COVID-19 pandemic has also disrupted and potentially accelerated future shortages. The study examined these issues and more, and identified ways to address these issues.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on the dire need for more laboratory professionals. As laboratories look to fill open positions, there is a considerable amount of time and money spent recruiting new people, but how can laboratory directors be sure they are hiring the right people? In their article, “On Attitude, Aptitude and Skills in the Clinical Laboratory,” Gaurav Sharma, MD, and Rakesh Sharma, MD, discuss how when you recruit a good candidate, it has a multiplier effect of not only filling an opportunity, but also balancing the workload and preventing future vacancies.
We are moving forward into a new normal, and there is hope on the horizon that we will soon be living in a truly post-COVID world, rather than one where the virus continues to surge in various parts of our country and the world. Rooting ourselves in a post-COVID world, however, means diligently continuing our research, and ensuring that the laboratory is contributing expert knowledge to the body of science for the betterment of health for all. Without the critical involvement of the laboratory in research, patient health will suffer. We are StrongerTogether when we collaborate with each other and with our clinician colleagues on research and discovery that will truly and positively impact patient care.
Thank you for your continued support of ASCP. Please send me your comments and suggestions at Blair.Holladay@ascp.org. My very best to each of you.