Carol Andrews

A few weeks after I joined CLP, I was a little surprised when a reader revealed that she found our articles on lab automation to be the most useful of all of our features. Until then, I had assumed that discussions of the subject, while relevant, would soon be passé. With the shortage of lab technologists and the need for improved quality and safety measures, were not clinical labs already at the forefront of automation? I soon learned that for a number of reasons, many labs have been slow to automate. These reasons include prohibitive costs and a reluctance to veer from “the way we’ve always done it.”

Paul Park, director of marketing at Atlas Medical, says that for many other industries, automation involves a standard process that can be utilized by several institutions with consistent results. “However, because of the complex regulatory environment in the lab, the interconnectivity between the lab and its clients and partners, and the lab’s role in patient care, the lab has to be able to assure its customers and stakeholders that despite any major IT change, it can maintain service level agreements without risking the levels it currently provides.”

In this issue we feature case studies detailing how various labs have implemented automated procedures. In “The Right and Wrong Way to Automate: Why Automation and Efficiency Aren’t Necessarily the Same Thing” on page 46, Leo Serrano, FACHE, shares the steps taken to automate laboratory services at West Tennessee Healthcare in Jackson, Tenn. Serrano is forthright about the mistakes he made and eager to keep others from making the same ones. In a special feature on page 32, Craig Hill, PhD, manager of scientific affairs at Gen-Probe, discusses the benefits of automated molecular diagnostic testing.

This month’s Industry Overview takes a look at LIS providers and how lab information systems can improve patient care and business operations (page 38). In addition, Roger Jacobs, MT(ASCP), director of laboratory services for Huron Medical Center in Detroit, discusses how his lab benefited by utilizing a hosted LIS (page 44).

Park at Atlas says that when looking at automation, the challenge is to identify and execute an automation strategy that addresses everyone’s needs. “Rather than changing what works, we enhance lab processes with tools and practices that make it more efficient and effective from day one.”

Obviously, lab automation is a hot issue and we’ll continue to address it in the future. If you’d like to share how a particular process or system worked for you, please give me a call or send me an email. As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

Carol Andrews
[email protected]