The Challenges Facing Today’s Blood Banks & Laboratories

Automation can provide solutions to many of your lab’s most critical pain points.

Doing more with less. That’s the challenge all labs and blood banks face today, thanks to a combination of factors. With the pressure on, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of simply keeping up—or attempting to keep up—and never addressing the issues at hand. The potential fallout from this lack of approach, however, can be costly in many ways.

This perfect storm of challenges didn’t happen overnight. A steady layering on of circumstances brought labs to this moment. Understaffed, over budget, depending on error-prone manual operations, and poor workflows have all converged to make it harder than ever to run an efficient laboratory. Now, labs must find the right solutions to take on these inefficiencies, so that tomorrow can look brighter than today.

The staffing challenge

One of the factors impacting labs is the growing aging population. According to the U.S. Census, the 65-and-older population grew by over a third during the past decade to more than 13 million people. Labs feel this statistic in two manners: One is that the over-65 population uses 85 percent of blood units. The second is that, as this population retires (40 percent plan to retire within the next 10 years according to a survey from Ortho Clinical Diagnostics), lab staffing takes a hit.

This is particularly concerning when you consider the fact that fewer trained techs are entering the workforce. On an annual basis, there are less than 5,000 graduates going to work in labs, compared to a demand for 12,000. There just aren’t enough hands to keep up, especially if those hands are tied with manual tests that could otherwise be automated.

Wasted materials and poor workflows

Wasted materials—which occur when labs don’t batch tests—add up in a big way. In fact, according to Ortho’s survey, 88 percent of lab workers will tell you wasted materials is front and center when it comes to inefficiencies. Materials go unused, misused or discarded. That impacts turnaround times, quality of care and overall productivity. All costly errors.

Compounding the problem is the fact that many labs and blood banks have established poor workflows, wasting not just materials, but the time of short staffs. In Ortho’s survey, for instance, 85 percent of labs agree they waste precious hours on reruns. Throw in STATS and slow turn times, and you’ve got inefficient workflows leading to poor patient care.


If you find these challenges relatable and would like to emerge as a leaner operation, automating with the Ortho VISION Swift Analyzer platform can lead to solutions.

Moving to a manual to automated system for the majority of your routine tests can deliver on two fronts: lowering the odds of manual testing errors, and providing room in the schedule for STAT testing. The improvement leads to faster and more consistent turnaround times, and ultimately, that means patients receive better quality of care.

This was the experience at Colorado-based St. Joseph Hospital, which dramatically improved testing operations for its eight-hospital, 100-clinic network. With a corporate charge to meet a pro-active five-year plan, St. Joseph needed to harness technology to trim waste and transform its workflow.

At issue: the system’s old instrumentation could not keep up with its workload. Each panel required almost a full FTE to work on antibody identification panels, as an example. Its first step was to move its 75,000 annual tests from manual to automated systems.

After switching to Ortho VISIONs, St. Joseph automated its retypes, DAT samples, antibody ID panels and more. This move freed up the lab’s techs to focus on more technical work. From there, St. Joseph took its quality control system online, drastically  reducing the time required for QC. Using Ortho Connect, it maximized its staffing resources. With a centralized server, St. Joseph was able to better utilize its staffing, cutting costly outsourcing.

The challenges laboratories like St. Joseph face today will not disappear tomorrow without change. Automation is key, and the Ortho VISIONs platform delivers diverse testing capabilities along with optimized, automated workflow to ensure you are poised to tackle all the issues associated with running a modern-day lab.

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