Advent Of Technology In The Laboratory

By Dr. Dilshaad Ali, CEO, AVIVO GroupDilshaad is an innovative & engaging leader with proven track and results in all aspects of hospital management & healthcare investment strategies. His interest lies in Healthcare Management, Medicare, Healthcare Information Technology and many other areas.

The modern-day laboratory is a technological marvel! Gone are the days of human interferences in every aspect of generating the end result of laboratory's work patient test report. From registration to sample collection to analyzing the samples and generating the reports have undergone a major technological transformation. As soon as a patient registers a barcode is generated which is one of the identities of the patient for the lab to ensure that there is no error while running the sample, assuring accurate test results.

During phlebotomy, to eliminate sources of error that could arise and to enhance the quality of sample collected, closed systems of blood collection tubes(vacutainer) are used. The advantage of this process is that being closed, the spread of blood-borne infection through spillage is negated. Hemolysis has a major impact on the end result which is avoided and the vacuum inside the tube ensures that the appropriate ratio of blood to anticoagulant is maintained. In the old & primitive method of collecting blood with needle syringes, the scope of blood borne infection, hemolysis and the altered ratio was a major issue and still is. Current practices and guidelines demand that all laboratories irrespective of size adopt this standard method of phlebotomy.

In leading hospitals, the specimen is delivered to the lab by pneumatic chutes. Hospitals are demanding environments that require reliable solutions for efficient & safe transportation of valuable & important items. Pneumatic chutes enable quick transmission of blood bags, clinical samples, ward supplies, medicines, like cytostatics, or other
hospital goods, thus saving on time and maintaining the specimen integrity to the maximum.

Automation has taken over the majority of work inside the lab. Today almost all of the laboratories in the world are using automated analysers, either semi automatic or fully automatic. Semi automated are the ones in which the part of processing has to be done by humans. While the fully automatic. Semi automated are the ones in which the part of processing has to be done by humans. While the fully automated analysers introduce the sample into the equipment by human intervention and the entire sequence of processing is performed by the analyser itself. By using these robotic systems, the throughput of samples has increased, while the reporting time as well as the human interferences have decreased. Samples can be processed individually in batches or continuously. Those tests which would take days to perform are now completed in minutes/hours, reducing the turnaround time of results. Improved technology and advanced performance methodology have increased the sensitivity and specificity of testing parameters.

Technology is a marvel in itself and when combined with human intelligence, it is a beautiful gift to mankind

Technology has taken over the whole process, for instance, automatic tissue processors in the histopathology lab have scaled down the processing time of biopsy samples, reducing the overall turnaround time. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Technological giants have manufactured fully automated workflow series that have in built centrifugation separation of tubes according to tests ordered the testing recapping, and discarding the entire gamut are performed inside the console.

On the other hand,software is developed to transfer the data to the Laboratory Information Management System(LIMS) directly from the analyser through interfacing. LIMS has reduced or even eliminated paperwork, faxes and scanning files, allowing the pathologists to efficiently manage the entire lifecycle of a specimen. Interfacing of analysers with personal computers ensures that raw & unedited data is transferred to the signing authority who will ultimately release the report. This has primarily nullified all typographical errors and has reduced paper waste. The results are shared automatically in realtime upon electronically signing the pathology report.

Thus, the entire process from sample registration to release of the report is one single entity, where due to minimal manual intervention, the efficiency & efficacy of testing procedure is maintained, ensuring staff safety and consumer satisfaction.

However, where technology processes the data, it is the responsibility of human knowledge to interpret and correlate. The machine can analyze only the fodder it has been fed. As they say in computer lingo GIGO-garbage in garbage out. To feed the right kind of fodder and to derive the right kind of result is the domain of the healthcare professional. Technology is a marvel in itself and when combined with human intelligence it is a beautiful gift to mankind.