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Laboratory automation has progressed from batch organization of a cluster of tests to the ability to perform a large menu of tests on a limited number of platforms.
Fremont, CA: Over the last 40 years, laboratory automation has transformed laboratories. Since its humble beginnings in the 1980s, the technology has spread to clinical laboratories all over the world. It has enabled laboratories to perform more tests, a wider range of tests, with fewer personnel and at a lower cost per test. It has also altered the way laboratories operate, particularly in the clinical setting. This has created a schism in how laboratories view themselves, what tests are available, and how the staff is deployed, posing challenges even as laboratories have saved money and improved service with this technology. In this article, we will look at the advantages and disadvantages of laboratory automation and how it can influence how laboratories operate.
Key benefits of laboratory automation:
Reduced Test Expenses
Laboratory automation has progressed from batch organization of a cluster of tests to the ability to perform a large menu of tests on a limited number of platforms. A large menu of tests can be performed by a limited number of personnel when integrated with sorting and aliquotting systems, eliminating large amounts of manual labor.
What is not mentioned is that the flexibility of platforms allows tests to be performed in a limited amount of space, lowering utilities and equipment costs and allowing capital expenses to be amortized over a greater number of tests.
By eliminating the need for humans to handle specimens, specimens can be prepared for testing much more quickly. This means that biochemical tests can be carried out more quickly, and technologies such as molecular diagnostics, liquid chromatography, and even microbial and tissue culture can be carried out without the need for human intervention. This means that tests can be performed more quickly than manually, enabling faster test results turnaround times.
Ease of Interaction with LIS/HIS Systems
Laboratory information systems have been used to track patient results and trends. Laboratory automation with LIS systems can enable more sophisticated test ordering by suggesting tests that may be appropriate based on the results. When integrated with health information systems, this information can inform treatment decisions and guide towards more effective treatments based on how previous treatments have resulted in lab results with specific prognoses.