Integration of Diagnostic Microbiology in a Model of Total Laboratory Automation

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Abstract

Background:

Although automation has become widely utilized in certain areas of diagnostic testing, its adoption in diagnostic microbiology has proceeded much more slowly.

Objective:

To describe our real-world experience of integrating an automated instrument for diagnostic microbiology (Walk-Away Specimen Processor, WASPLab) within a model of total laboratory automation (TLA).

Methods:

The implementation process was divided into 2 phases. The former period, lasting approximately 6 weeks, entailed the installation of the WASPLab processor to operate as a stand-alone instrumentation, whereas the latter, lasting approximately 2 weeks, involved physical connection of the WASPLab with the automation.

Results:

Using the WASPLab instrument in conjunction with the TLA model, we obtained a time savings equivalent to the work of 1.2 full-time laboratory technicians for diagnostic microbiology. The connection of WASPLab to TLA allowed its management by a generalist or clinical chemistry technician, with no need for microbiology skills on the part of either worker. Hence, diagnostic microbiology could be performed by the staff that is already using the TLA, extending their activities to include processing urgent clinical chemistry and hematology specimens. The time to result was also substantially improved.

Conclusions:

According to our experience, using the WASPLab instrument as part of a TLA in diagnostic microbiology holds great promise for optimizing laboratory workflow and improving the quality of testing.

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