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Ritsuko Tsai places samples into a chemistry analyzer, which is part of the new automated system.
With the first phase of the Clinical Laboratory Automation System complete, staff are looking forward to increasing efficiency and improving services for hospital clinicians.
“Our goal is to decrease test turn-around time through automating key processes in the laboratory,” said Milenko Tanasijevic, MD, MBA, director of Clinical Laboratories Division, Department of Pathology, which has seen its test volume steadily increase over the years.
The first phase of automation included the introduction of a Modular Pre-Analytic Unit (MPA), a robotic system coupled with state-of-the art analytical instruments that process all routine and STAT chemistry lab work. Last year, such tests made up 60 to 65 percent of the 4.5 million specimens processed at the lab.
With the new automated system in place, lab staff receive inpatient or outpatient specimens, label them and place them inside the MPA. Then the MPA takes over. Inside the instrument, each specimen is spun to separate the serum from the blood. If multiple tests are ordered, the MPA automatically uncaps the specimen and produces additional sample tubes as necessary.
“Before automation, all of those steps were completed manually by our techs,” said Marcia Niland, MT, ASCP, one of five chemistry supervisors, who has worked at the lab for 20 years. “With this new technology, we’re creating the capacity to handle an increased volume of specimens in the near future.”
The automation system now processes between 150 to 200 specimens per hour, but at maximum capacity, it could run nearly three times faster. In addition, with this technology in place, the lab is teaming up with Information Services to ensure seamless transfer of lab data into the hospital information system.
Later this year, the lab expects to complete the next phase of the project, which will automate the hematology lab section, and phase 3, a section designed to process special chemistry tests that are often sent to reference labs for analysis.
“Our staff have been working incredibly hard to ensure the smoothest possible transition to a fully automated lab in the interest of improving the service level for our clinicians and patients,” said Ellen Goonan, MS, ASCP, SH, director of Operations of Clinical Laboratories.