Benefits of Automation: Shared Success Storie


Vol. 21 • Issue 5 • Page 14

Cover Story

Benefits of Automation: Shared Success Stories

Editor’s Note: This is a compilation of real life experiences from fellow laboratory managers. If you’d like to share your story, contact the editor at lnace@advanceweb.com


El Camino Hospital: From Cost Center To Profit Center

Encompassing 395 beds and performing 735,000 billable procedures a year, El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, CA, was at a crossroads to determine the level of changes needed to improve its diagnostic lab’s efficiency and profitability. After consulting a third-party efficiency expert in 2003, the laboratory director concluded that automation would enable the lab to add approximately 200,000 new tests per year as part of their outreach effort-changing the laboratory from a cost center into a profit center.

El Camino Hospital’s lab began its automation efforts by acquiring a Beckman Coulter Power Processor sample processing system to integrate with its two chemistry and one immunoassay systems. Manual work was cut dramatically, providing more time for the staff to focus on patient results and reducing turnaround time variability. As a result, the capacity of the lab increased and the director was able to bring dialysis testing back in-house, which increased testing volume.

The development and implementation of outreach programs then drove an increase in outpatient testing volume and the number of billable tests. The automation system also standardized the lab’s protocols for validating patient results, improving quality and allowing for predictable turnaround times.

The benefits of automation weren’t contained to just the lab, however. The entire hospital is reaping the rewards of introducing automation. “The lab’s share of total hospital expense is less than 5%, while lab outpatient revenue is more than 10% of the hospital outpatient revenue,” reports Mark Nishimoto, director of Lab and Pathology Services at El Camino Hospital. “Ultimately, by streamlining and automating our processes, we were able to change the lab from a cost center to a profit center.”

In 2009, the lab moved from its former location into a new hospital wing. With the new space came new improvements. The lab extended its automation system to include hematology and coagulation and updated its chemistry system. In addition, they installed two REMISOL Advance* clinical information systems to provide autovalidation of hematology and hemostasis results and standardize the manual interpretation of results. From 2003 to 2011, the lab’s workload volume increased by 82% and continues to grow, demonstrating the positive-and powerful-effect of automation on the lab’s overall efficiency.

* REMISOL Advance is a trademark of Normand-Info SAS. Beckman Coulter and the stylized logo are trademarks of Beckman Coulter, Inc. and are registered with the USPTO.


University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics: Benefits in Hematology

Several things contribute to stress in a clinical laboratory hematology department-insufficient automation, understaffing, increased workloads, instrument downtime, high review rates and lack of standardization in sample processing and analysis. These were some of the challenges faced by the hematology department at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics’ core clinical laboratory. The laboratory provides diagnostic services for the hospital, an adjacent children’s hospital and many specialty clinics in its surrounding areas.

“In 2007 when we sought automation technology, we had three primary goals. We wanted to be ‘hands off’ as much as possible, standardize our sample handling and processing practices and increase our auto-validation,” says Mary Capper, MLS(ASCP) SH, supervisor, Hematology/Hemostasis, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. “Four years later, our workload has increased by 35% while our number of technologists has decreased. We have standardized our laboratory practices, resulting in less stress for our staff. Our technologists know that any of them, on any shift, on any given day, can handle whatever hematology sample comes from oncology, ER, or transplant based on this high level of standardization. This also enables the University of Iowa to utilize medical laboratory technicians on certain benches,” adds Capper. “Sysmex’s total laboratory automation solution middleware, Sysmex WAM, enables us to extend our autovalidation to abnormal values,” she adds. “Any instrument can do normal blood. But analyzing and reporting samples with abnormal white cells, high or low platelets without human intervention is key. If there is problem with a sample on first run, our lab-designed rules will direct a rerun of the sample without technologist intervention, while improving our TATs. Timely results are critical, especially for our neonatal intensive care unit that operates at more than 90% occupancy.”

Iowa’s laboratory automation solution also enables a paperless environment. Now, the lab electronically stores its results up to two years, eliminating the expense and inconvenience of purchasing paper and packaging and storing sample print outs.

University of Iowa’s Sysmex HST-N line in the core laboratory and the Sysmex Alpha line in the cancer center include three Sysmex XE-5000 Automated Hematology Analyzers, two Sysmex SP-1000i™ Automated Hematology Slide Preparation Units for slide making and staining, two CellaVision®DM96 Cell Image Analyzers and Sysmex WAM.

“We were the first lab in the U.S. to acquire the Sysmex XE-5000 and have seen first-hand what this technology has helped us achieve. That’s why we are looking forward to further innovations,” concludes Capper.

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