Lab Automation Subject Of “How To” Program

Experienced “Vets” to share experiences of introducing automation into their labs

CEO SUMMARY: Mastering lab automation is more difficult than it appears. The first-ever “Lab Automation Boot Camp” is assembling experienced lab administrators who have experience (and scars) in automation and are committed to telling the real story about making automation successful. It’s a “no-spin zone” where truth is the goal and there is balanced reporting of the good and the bad of lab automation.

IT’S TIME FOR STRAIGHT ANSWERS to the tough questions that most lab administrators and pathologists have about lab automation and its effectiveness in day-to-day laboratory operations.

On May 9, a special “how to” day on laboratory automation will take place following the seventh annual Executive War College in New Orleans. A panel of early-adopter laboratory leaders will share their experiences and advice.

“During this full-day session, my goal is to provide laboratory managers with all the information they need to be successful with the specific lab automation solution they want to implement in their lab,” stated William Neeley, M.D., Medical Director of Laboratories for Detroit Medical Center. Dr. Neeley will present and also facilitate at the lab industry’s first-ever “Lab Automation Boot Camp.”

“Making presentations will be lab administrators and pathologists who have already implemented lab automation solutions,” explained Dr. Neeley. “They are eager and ready to talk about the wonders and the warts of the automation systems they bought, how to bring them on-line, and how to get them to work to their full potential.”

Learning About Options

The day will start with an analysis of how lab automation started in Japan and why it was “imported” into the United States. There will be an overview of the different types of lab automation available and how to understand the differences in total laboratory automation (TLA), modular automation, workstation consolidation, and task-oriented automation.

“This information is specifically tailored to meet the needs of both big and small hospital labs,” noted Dr. Neeley. “We will discuss ways to approach lab automation that don’t require substantial investment of capital or management expertise. Once you understand some of the important ‘do’s and don’ts’ about automation, it becomes easy to identify the types of automation solutions that are right for your lab and will deliver great performance with a minimum of disruption.”

Picking The Right Solution

Knowing what type of automation is best for a specific lab will be discussed by Dixie McFadden, Administrative Director of Laboratories for Kaiser Permanente Northwest, in Portland, Oregon. Kaiser spent three years doing a rigorous assessment of the economics, functionality, and needs of its new core lab facility.

Upon completing this detailed analysis, Kaiser’s conclusions about what automation solutions best met its needs were surprising. McFadden will share insights about the methods Kaiser used to justify capital expenditures, while insuring that desired gains in lab productivity and quality are achieved.

There will be presentations that address “how to” techniques to prepare the lab for implementation of an automation project, to benchmark and improve productivity on a continuous basis, and to solve the information linkage problems between LIS and LAS (lab automation system) software.

Big and Small Labs

“These topics squarely hit the needs of big and small hospital labs that are considering some type of automation project,” said Dr. Neeley. “It’s a great opportunity to learn from, and network with, some of the smartest minds in laboratory automation. Our faculty, having been among the earliest labs to implement automation, have plenty of good lessons about what works–and what doesn’t.”

Following these how-to sessions, there will be a case study of total lab automation (TLA). In Burnaby, British Columbia, MDS Metro Laboratory Services implemented its first automation project seven years ago. During the past two years, it has upgraded to a second generation TLA installation. Project manager Robbie Bowers will present the case study, offering performance and productivity data stretching back almost seven years. She will also explain the lessons learned during this time, as well as the pitfalls to avoid.

“In a true sense, there has been a vacuum of accurate and detailed information about the effectiveness of lab automation in real lab settings,” stated Robert L. Michel, Director of the Executive War College and Editor-In-Chief of THE DARK REPORT. “Certainly some of the earliest attempts to automate clinical laboratories fell far short of the expectations of both the vendor and its lab customer. But that’s less true today.

Get The Right Answers

“In fact, the trend today is for both large and small hospital labs to consider some type of automation solution as a way to cope with the shortage of trained med techs, while at the same time improving lab services,” added Michel. “For labs which are interested in lab automation, this ‘how-to-do-it’ session is the perfect place to get the right answers and avoid having to rein- vent the wheel as they implement their own automation project.”

“My lab at Detroit Medical Center is like many other hospitals,” noted Dr. Neeley. “Because there’s not much money available to invest in the clinical laboratory, we must be both cost-effective and clever in the types of automation solutions we buy and implement. For example, I’ve learned how to accomplish a great deal without excessive demand on the hospital IT department. This allows us to move more quickly when we introduce a new project involving lab automation.”

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