Can you guess the ways automation in blood banking can be a game-changer?

Increasing test volumes should never compromise safety and quality

Efforts to make blood banks safer for patients have always been a top priority. Over the years, a growing body of research showed that it’s during the preanalytical phase that generally leads to the most errors in the total testing process. One recent study showed that patient identification and tube labeling carry the highest risk to patient safety in blood banking.

So how can blood centers improve quality and safety in the preanalytical phase of the total testing process?

This is where automation can help and can be a game-changer.

Testing platforms which can run many tests with minimal involvement of users, technologists and operators provides huge value to labs. This automation allows labs to process larger volumes of the test without more staff. But how does automation help blood centers improve the quality and safety of their labs? To help you better understand the benefits of the latest automation technologies, Clinical Lab Products compiled a list of ways automation can improve your lab’s performance. Here’s how.

1. Empower your staff to become more productive

One question that lab managers should ask is the difference between how manual and automated systems test for routine blood bank or immunohematology  tests?

Thankfully, researchers sought to answer this very question in 2015 and ran a comparative study that looked at the results of manual and automated approaches for blood grouping and crossmatching. After running 1000 samples, the study found that computerized machines took significantly less time to process larger batches of samples, decreased “hands-on” time from staff, and a boost in the traceability of records processed.

But changing clinical practice, such as introducing automated testing platforms, requires a fundamental shift in process. These changes aren’t always easy to implement, especially during onboarding and normalizing a new technological tool in your lab. This is where not every automation testing platform offers the same value. When choosing an automation partner, leaders must recognize the change management efforts involved and ask: “what process improvement support can my automation partner bring to the table?”

2. Reduce variability and inefficiencies with standardization

Variability in sample quality is a concern, especially when there aren’t mechanisms to eliminate or mitigate human errors along the way. For instance, multiple touchpoints involve preanalytical automation in which samples are identified, labeled, scheduled for analysis, centrifuged, sorted, and transported to the appropriate workstations. Studies have shown that automation in testing offers many advantages, including using barcode systems to mitigate sample identification errors, mitigation of human errors in the interpretation of results, and mitigation of transcription errors while documenting the results.

It’s not uncommon for labs to face considerable differences in how specimens are handled. There might be too many touchpoints, batching of samples, interruptions, reruns, and redundancies that stand between a lab’s goal to improve patient safety and lab efficiency.

The risk of lacking standardization in your blood center can impact turnaround times, staff frustration, and your lab’s productivity. So why introduce variability that can be avoided with automation? Research shows that there are additional advantages to consider: reduced multiple donor exposure and improved purity and quality of your blood products.

3. Reducing the risk of errors via traceability of blood products

Another concern for high-volume blood centers is the risk of errors that impact blood safety. Mismatched or mistaken identification of blood samples is one of the most common mistakes in a blood center. While several factors contribute to this error, lab leaders must identify factors that are within their control.

Staff expertise and practice requirements can vary from lab to lab, which is where automation can help reduce staff interactions with the testing platform and improve the standardization of testing performance.

Automation can help identify, store, and handle blood products and automation equipment provides a more secure and traceable solution than manual testing in the lab.

Plus, traceability provides a solid foundation for blood centers that require accurate analyses to support diagnoses and treatment plans. Automation can help improve traceability by providing an avenue for specimens to be tracked throughout their journey from initial analysis to the final results.

When goals are to manage costs, increase staff utilization and measure continuous improvement in your lab, having the tools to monitor and measure your lab’s efficiency levels are critical.

Is your lab’s culture and systems enabling your workforce to thrive and do its best work? Now is the time to unlock the potential that automation can bring to your blood center.

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