Automating the Clinical Laboratory
Question submitted by Carlo Gasperoni: Which is the clinical analysis laboratory throughput (tubes/h or tubes/day or tests/year) to make necessary to automate the preanalytical phase?
Even relatively small laboratories can benefit from laboratory automation. The key is to focus on task-targeted devices. For example, Abbott has installed hundreds of FE500 devices in small laboratories. This device will perform most of the pre-analytical tasks associated with specimen processing. Also look at Sarstedt’s offerings which include a hopper that will allow the lab to simply pour a box of specimens into a chute; the rest is automatic. The relatively high price tag for automation can be addressed in various ways.
1. Current staff assigned to pre-analytical tasks of sorting, centrifuging, decapping, aliquotting, and racking can be reassigned to other duties if a robot is purchased.
2. Laboratories that automate have seen a reduction in staff boredom, repetitive stress injuries and especially laboratory errors.
3. Reduction in specimen turnaround time results in faster hospital discharges, greater patient satisfaction, and more efficient use of medical professionals.
4. Many vendors will consider lease or rental plans that will allow the lab to recoup costs over a long period of time.
Look for next generation automation systems to increase throughput and perform many subtle extras such as automatically balancing the centrifuge, inspecting specimens for errors in labeling and sample collection, and performing their tasks more rapidly.