JudyORourke New product offerings in mass spectrometry and next-generation sequencing, mainstays of the clinical lab, were touted at the annual AACC meeting and Clinical Lab Expo.
       In the year 2013, well, no. But in the not-too-distant future, we expect the answer to be yes.                    
       Seasoned laboratorians, enabled by sharp minds and dexterous hands, once performed tests manually that are now routinely done by machines, in a manner that could be described as labor-intensive or laborious. Years and decades ago, envisioning today’s streamlined automation options in clinical labs would have been as foreign as mass spec sounds, above.

       Automation options have continued to increase in number and scope, in response to the demand from labs for solutions to the triple whammy of increasing test volumes, staffing obstacles, and the necessity of adopting Lean measures. An undercurrent in the business of operating labs today is the moving target of health care reform, lowered reimbursement rates, a transition from the traditional fee-for-service model to payment models based on patient outcomes—and at the center of all scenarios is the key role labs play.
       I am happy to report that new automation options showcased at the 2013 AACC expo are smarter than ever, freeing up lab technologists for tasks that engage their brains and talents and make the best use of their time.
       Among these options are an instrument with advanced automation for low- and medium-volume labs with tight budgets/space, which features a small footprint and no track, and links several analyzers through a single robotic sample interface, providing vigorous STAT management for a mix of chemistry and/or immunoassay analytics; and an automated workflow system with intelligent robotics that prepare blood samples for testing and postanalytical processing, sample transport, and automates routine and STAT tests. Some big-ticket items are not yet available for purchase, allowing time to include them in a capital expense planning cycle.
       Vendors’ virtual, customizable educational initiatives for laboratorians are gaining momentum, helping to guarantee competency of technologists and confidence in audit readiness.
       Expect to see the range of products introduced at AACC in our pages and on our website in the coming months. We will also continue discussions begun in Houston in print and online, about adopting new technologies and testing options in the lab; and solutions for dealing with budget, staffing, and regulatory challenges.
       Circling back to mass spec, I have something cool in the works, and will share it with you soon.

Judy O’Rourke
Editor, CLP
[email protected], (619) 659-1065