Each year the world's leaders in business, economics, politics and technology meet in the remote Swiss town of Davos
in the depths of winter. They are not there for the skiing, but to contemplate what future worlds might be like.
"The future is already here. It is just not very evenly distributed", wrote science fiction writer William Gibson
in 1993. He is correct.
On 12 July 1956 Dr John Sullivan reported on his first test result from his new rooms in a cottage on Wickham Terrace. Eighteen months later he was joined by Dr Nicolas Nicolaides. Sixty years later Sullivan and Nicolaides Pathology is now one of the largest pathology groups in Australia.
To keep at the forefront in its field Sullivan Nicolaides Pathology (SNP) has recently moved into a multi-story purpose built laboratory in Bowen Hills, not far from Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital and close to all major transport links.
As with general practice, pathology companies have felt the squeeze on profits in the last few years. The key to survival has been increasing efficiency through automation.
Specimens and supplies arrive in the lower bowels of the building, are sorted and then ascend on a conveyor belt system to the appropriate departments.
After initial testing is complete most specimens are kept for a week although some samples such as serology may be kept for several years. The dense packing of the specimens in the refrigeration units means that they can only be placed and retrieved by the robotics system.
"Where are we going today, Ethel?"
Specimens may be digitally tagged long before they get to the laboratory. Some electronic health record systems will generate a digital request in addition to the paper form when ordered by the doctor. The request is sent to SNP during the same internet connection as pathology result downloads and can occur several times per hour. Electronic requests save time and eliminate errors occur from transcribing doctor's hand writing.
Security is tight and visitors are required to "log in". Before accessing the clinical areas where pathologists and scientists are spread over three floors.
There is also an extensive help desk department that fields calls from doctors from Northern Territory and northern NSW in addition to all of Queensland.
Head of Histopathology and former Lismore pathologist, Dr David Papadimos, with supervising Endocrinologist, Dr Lee Price
David Papadimos, is head of the Departments of Histopathology and Cytology. His current rooms are a far cry from those that he shared with the real estate office in the Gum Tree shopping centre in Goonellabah 30 years ago.
", telehealth and robotics may be the medical poster children of the fourth industrial revolution but the advances in diagnostics whether they be in molecular pathology and cytogenetics or the more traditional fields of biochemistry, haematology and immunology is impressive. The pace of technology change is quickening and who knows what medicine will be like in the fifth industrial revolution