Lab Automation: Charting New Territory

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(DGIwire) — Medical laboratory test results provide physicians with vital information needed for accurate diagnosis, treatment and monitoring patients. According to R&D, a leading trade magazine that follows news and trends in the medical research industry, an estimated 60 percent to 70 percent of all decisions regarding a patient’s diagnosis and treatment, hospital admission and discharge are based on laboratory test results. Today, as testing volumes increase and physicians place greater demand on the laboratory for faster result turnaround times, laboratory automation solutions are playing a larger role in patient outcomes.

Nonetheless, laboratories are facing a growing shortage of qualified professionals. Many are reaching retirement age, while the U.S. Bureau of Labor predicts 11,000 new laboratory professionals will be needed each year through 2018, while educational programs are only graduating 6,000 new students per year. This is occurring while both hospitals and outpatient medical facilities remain under crushing financial pressure due to the lingering impact of the recession, health care reform is producing a decline in reimbursements and an aging population is requiring more health care services There is also an enormous increase in chronic conditions that require more frequent care, especially diabetes and heart disease. Between 2010 and 2030, a 69 percent increase is estimated in the number of adults with diabetes in developing countries, with a 20 percent increase in developed countries.

Despite this dire call to action, making the case for increased laboratory automation has been a hard-fought battle—even though automating most manual processes would greatly enhance productivity. One such example: compact solutions, which include pre- and/or post-analytical sorting and single-sample management with primary test tube sampling. This feature can significantly reduce manual sample handling. Many other innovations that incorporate advanced robotic solutions can also improve workflow by connecting multiple instruments, which then enables an extensive menu of tests to be accomplished from one test tube, by one employee, in one workstation, generating one report.

The possibilities are endless—which is why more lab managers today are consulting Holliston, MA-based Harvard Bioscience. For more than a century, this company has been a leading developer, manufacturer and marketer of a broad range of specialized products bought by thousands of researchers in more than 100 countries. The majority of its products are the scientific instruments used to advance life science research.

Jeffrey A. Duchemin, President and CEO of Harvard Bioscience, says, “Today’s savvy clinical laboratory professional wants to use workflow redesign methods to streamline processes in the laboratory as an integrated approach to introducing total lab automation. We know their financial and personnel challenges, and our goal is to help them make the right choices so they can attain optimal results.”

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