Hematology Middleware Creates a New Front for Competition

Hematology Middleware Creates a New Front for Competition

Middleware and information technology (IT) services earn revenue for hematology companies, but are also crucial competitive factors in securing clients in the developed world.  Hematology players in North America and Europe sell to consolidated markets with established instrument bases and where platform features such as middleware are becoming a primary tool of competition to wrest away market share. In a period of relatively high parity between major analyzer platforms in terms of capabilities, competition is likely to shift towards middleware, IT solutions, and other features providing an effective, time- and resources-saving interface between the hematology work area and the rest of the lab and organization. 

Middleware includes software and accompanying vendor services that provide an interface between an in vitro diagnostic (IVD) instrument and laboratory information system (LIS), or between instruments in the same work area of a lab. Kalorama Information estimates that approximately 25% of major hematology vendors’ revenue in the North American market is from services, including maintenance and training services, as well as middleware contracts and IT services. Service revenue has been an important component to vendor sales in developed markets where reagent sales are linked to gradual testing volume growth and poor investment climates have inhibited lab instrument purchasing. The market for middleware and other IT services is limited only by the installed base of target instruments while demand for operational lab efficiency remains high.

Integration is a key benefit of middleware, allowing labs to synch (and vendors to market) slidemaker/stainers, digital cell imaging systems, HbA1c analyzers, and ESR instruments with hematology analyzers. Through middleware, an automated system can guide lavender top tubes from complete blood count (CBC), to differentials,  to non-hematology testing (ESR, HbA1c), then slide smearing and staining, and digital analysis or image-based reflex differentials. Middleware can also interact with other pre- and post-analytical systems involved with sample processing, archiving, and retrieval. Core lab companies have added incentive to develop and market middleware as proprietary IT platforms that enable them to market additional instruments to the client.

Leading hematology players Sysmex, Beckman Coulter, Abbott Diagnostics, Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics and Horiba all offer clients hematology-applicable middleware. Prominent among middleware solutions is Sysmex’s hematology-specific WAM™ software marketed in the United States. The U.S. market is the last remaining major regional market where Sysmex has yet to gain a leading share in hematology. Previous hematology-focused innovations delivered significant gains in market share for Sysmex in Europe, North America, and across the world; hematology-specific middleware coupled with the company’s industry leadership figure to next improve Sysmex’s U.S. market standing.

Demand for middleware in hematology is also on the rise as a result of lab industry consolidation. Standardization of testing rules, data reporting and sample management aids in the coordination of care across multiple sites or facilities. Expanding healthcare organizations with centralized lab operations can similarly leverage hematology-specific middleware to improve lab efficiency through customized rulemaking that reduces reflex and repeat testing.