By - September 28, 2021
ASCP and more than 50 other medical societies, led by the Council of Medical Specialty Societies (CMSS) released a statement in late July, calling for all healthcare employers to require their employees be vaccinated against the coronavirus. The statement came in response to the recent COVID-19 surge and the availability of safe and effective vaccines.
“ASCP and other members of the healthcare community need to lead by example,” ASCP President Kimberly Sanford, MD, MASCP, MT(ASCP), said.
As the nation moves toward full FDA licensure of the currently available vaccines, all healthcare workers without identified exemptions should get vaccinated for their own health and to protect those they treat, especially unvaccinated children, those who are vulnerable, and the immunocompromised, according to the CMSS statement.
“We have a highly infectious COVID-19 variant circulating now, and the number of individuals who become infected and need to be hospitalized is increasing significantly,” said Gary Procop, MD, MS, MASCP, Chair of the ASCP Institute for Science, Technology and Policy. “This puts a strain on the healthcare system. And, in order to encourage people to get vaccinated, we need to show them that vaccines are safe and effective.”
Existing COVID-19 vaccine mandates have proven effective, resulting in more than 95 percent compliance in all reported instances. Similarly, mandates for other vaccinations have been necessary to achieve compliance among healthcare workers. Mandates are an essential policy to increase vaccination rates in healthcare settings and protect patients.
ASCP has created a robust series of education, career development, and other activities for laboratory professionals, pathologists and residents in the weeks before and during the ASCP 2021 Annual Meeting in Boston, Oct. 27-29.
This year, the ASCP 2021 Annual Meeting returns to in-person programming, in addition to a virtual event that will bring even greater opportunities to learn, connect and collaborate. All registered attendees will have access to a wide range of virtual sessions held in the weeks before the Annual Meeting, including career development seminars, and mentoring and mock interview sessions.
The Career Services Day will virtually host a variety of different programming designed to enhance professional development by offering career support, resources and information. In addition, volunteers from the ASCP Mentorship Program will serve as mentors and mock interviewers during the Path to Boston. Their names and biographies will be available online in advance so attendees can select the mentor they would like to meet with. These sessions will be one-on-one, half-hour meetings and scheduling is open online Sept 18 through October 29.
The Path to Boston activities will also feature two full days of Resident Review sessions before the Annual Meeting. Presented virtually, these will include many new sessions featuring challenging, high-interest topic areas to help pathology residents prepare for their board exams.
New this year is a “Meet the Experts” series, similar to a roundtable, where an expert in a given subject area will gather with about 20 Annual Meeting participants for an informal question and answer session. Annual Meeting participants can also check out the Fellowship Fair where organizations offering fellowships can meet and interact with interested residents and others.
Find out about all these sessions and much more about ASCP 2021 at ascp.org/2021.
As part of the Path to Boston, ASCP will virtually present its 2021 Choosing Wisely Champions on Oct. 20 from 2-3 p.m. Eastern time, followed by a question-and-answer session with viewers. ASCP’s Choosing Wisely Champions program recognizes clinicians who are leading efforts to reduce overuse and waste in health care. It is part of ASCP’s broader Choosing Wisely campaign, an initiative of the ABIM Foundation, which seeks to advance a national dialogue on avoiding unnecessary medical tests, treatments and procedures.
Below are the honorees and a synopsis of their achievements. (Individuals who have an asterisk by their name have been selected to present their work at the ASCP 2021 Annual Meeting ‘Path to Boston’ Choosing Wisely session on October 20.)
Dr. Fletcher, medical director of ARUP Consultative Services, has promoted the Choosing Wisely guidelines through his contributions to continuing education and his collaborative initiatives with hospital systems nationwide to drive quality healthcare improvement. Along with the ARUP Consultative Services team, Dr. Fletcher has developed real-time analytics tools to identify commonly misused tests and has led laboratory stewardship analyses of reference and in-house testing. Nearly 1,600 users in hospitals and labs across the United States utilize 645 of these dashboards to reduce inappropriate testing.
ARUP Consultative Services collaborates with health systems nationwide to implement Choosing Wisely guidelines that optimize both reference and in-house laboratory test utilization. By developing and deploying its AnalyticsDx dashboards, the team has helped clients identify opportunities to eliminate gaps in their test use that do not adhere to Choosing Wisely guidelines, as well as opportunities to reduce inappropriate tests. The team has completed over a dozen consulting projects in the last three years aimed at improving test utilization. It has identified opportunities to save individual hospitals and health systems over $700,000 annually.
Established in 2016, Mather Hospital’s Choosing Wisely committee reviews evidence-based guidelines to stimulate discussion about frequently ordered tests and/or treatments, and to develop tools to ensure clinicians make more effective care choices to improve quality and patient outcomes. Specific laboratory-driven initiatives include leveraging a pre-test probability, Wells Score, with a rapid D-dimer assay to support an exclusion strategy for patients presenting to the Emergency Department (ED) with possible symptoms of pulmonary embolism (PE) or deep venous thrombosis (DVT); and accelerated ED Chest pain protocol with HEART Score using a hs-troponin.
Dr. Sharma is the medical director of regional laboratories of the Henry Ford Medical Group, associate medical director of the Clinical Pathology Core Laboratory at Henry Ford Hospital, and co-chair of the Henry Ford Health System Laboratory Utilization Taskforce. Since 2013, Dr. Sharma has championed and helped implement the Choosing Wisely goals across the Henry Ford Health System. He has partnered with departmental and health system leaders to formalize and establish a system-wide Multidisciplinary Laboratory Formulary Committee.
Dr. Wang-Rodriguez, Danny Luevano, Robin Nuspl, and Dr. Bevins developed an innovative and data-driven approach to identifying low-value laboratory utilization based on the Choosing Wisely recommendations. Their methods enabled interrogation of a large array of tests utilizing performance benchmarks derived from national level data including all Veterans Affairs medical centers. The team has intervened at sites within the VISN22 administrative with a combination of provider education, electronic health record ordering adjustments, and other interventions to successfully decrease low-value utilization after identification. These efforts led to nearly $200,000 of direct savings in testing costs.
Since 2017, PeaceHealth, a regional healthcare system with 10 hospital laboratories in the Pacific Northwest, has partnered with Quest Diagnostics for clinical laboratory testing, and Quest has shared its expertise to support laboratory stewardship at PeaceHealth. Laboratory leadership convened in-house experts to form a Laboratory Stewardship Committee (LSC) including executives, clinicians, laboratorians, clinical informaticists, IT specialists, and financial analysts. After analysts reviewed laboratory data shared by PeaceHealth, the first LSC meeting was held in November 2019. Since then, the LSC has ratified a charter, solicited projects, analyzed test utilization data, recommended interventions, and measured and reported the effectiveness of its efforts.
ASCP’s effort to boost awareness of the medical laboratory profession is getting national attention. USA Today recently ran an article, "The Lab Profession You Need to Join," featuring ASCP leaders discussing the vital role the laboratory plays in patient care. In it, ASCP President Kimberly Sanford, MD, MASCP, MT(ASCP), underscored the need to build the medical laboratory workforce.
“The laboratory staff is a critical part of the healthcare team,” she said. “If you do not have trained, educated, certified laboratory professionals and pathologists, you are not going to be able to provide the analysis and, therefore the diagnosis, for your patient in order to render treatment.”
The USA Today article was part of a campaign by ASCP and Mediaplanet USA that focuses on infectious diseases and also highlights careers in the medical laboratory. The article also highlights ASCP’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiative, which aims to attract students and young adults from underrepresented communities to the laboratory profession.
ASCP has been integral to another workforce initiative that is getting noticed. The Society, in collaboration with the University of Washington Center for Health Workforce Studies, recently released the results of their joint study, Clinical Laboratory Workforce: Understanding the Challenges to Meeting Current and Future Needs.
The comprehensive study, supported by a grant from the Siemens Foundation, proposes strategies to build a more diverse and inclusive laboratory workforce. The study examines pathways into the profession, as well as barriers and opportunities regarding recruitment, retention, program capacity and job responsibilities and requirements.
Conducted over 18 months, the study involved ASCP leaders and others in the profession, as well as focus groups. The resulting report produced significant data and documentation of best practices and a blueprint for the future.
And, in yet another boost to the profession’s visibility, the University of Washington Center for Health Workforce Studies (UW CHWS) has just published a policy brief on the clinical laboratory workforce as a companion piece to the study it conducted with ASCP. Funded by the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA), the policy brief examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on allied health occupations and promotes visibility of the profession to the highest level of federal government. Targeted toward policy makers, planners, educators, clinicians and others with an interest in the health profession, it provides an overview of the clinical laboratory workforce and its role during the pandemic, and describes state and national approaches for emergency increases to the clinical laboratory workforce.
The report brief will help policy makers devise solutions to address workforce challenges.
ASCP has joined with a coalition of medical societies, patient advocacy organizations and others in opposition to legislation that would “reverse established Supreme Court precedent and expand patent-eligible subject matter to encompass abstract ideas, laws of nature, or natural phenomena.”
ASCP communications writer