What kind of strains have the Covid-19 pandemic placed on diagnostic lab testing?

Nicolas Quoix: Diagnostic testing has been at the forefront of the world’s response to Covid-19. In 2020, clinical laboratory testing increased 245%, leading to high resource strain, as staff were moved from the core lab into the molecular lab. More than ever, laboratory staff are working at full speed. Since Covid-19, they’ve started taking on greater responsibility, working longer days, picking up extra shifts and in some cases working across multiple labs to keep up.

What are the consequences of these pressures in practice, especially on public health?

While the test volumes have begun to decrease, roughly 40% of adults either delayed or altogether avoided medical care in 2020. Again, that leads to increased testing demand as patients begin returning for care. The continued testing demands for Covid-19, plus the higher test volumes for all those returning patients, also place a heavy burden on laboratories – especially when they want to keep quality and efficiency high.

In general, could you give me a sense of how laboratory automation can help smooth the path?

Laboratory automation helps in a number of ways. First, it removes a lot of repetitive work for lab professionals, increasing efficiency in the laboratory by maintaining consistent levels of productivity and quality.

Automation also enables the lab to reduce manual errors and improve standardisation both within the lab, and between different labs in the same health network.

Could you walk me through your DxA 5000 Fit Workflow Automation System and how it makes diagnostic testing more accurate, especially for medium-sized labs?

The DxA 5000 Fit Workflow Automation System is the newest addition to the DxA 5000 family. It offers the benefits of laboratory automation to medium-sized labs by creating a direct physical connection between the pre-analytical, analytical and post-analytical parts of the process. It greatly improves laboratory workflow and efficiency by checking the most common pre-analytical errors automatically. This can help health systems lower their expenses.

How can the DxA 5000’s streamlined workflow promote a safe and engaging work environment for staff?

Typically, a lab will spend up to 60% of its time conducting pre-analytical work. Those manual tasks are repetitive and unrewarding for skilled laboratory technicians. Being able to automate those tasks not only increases laboratory efficiency but also allows skilled staff to focus on other activities, increasing engagement level. Lab automation also minimises the interactions between lab personnel, the sample tube and the analysers. This keeps the process safer.

In general, how do you expect automated lab testing to develop in the future, and what does your team have planned especially?

We’re already seeing a growing demand for automation across diagnostic labs. This is partly down to how it minimises the number of repetitive manual steps in processing a patient sample. At the same time, this growth is being driven on the clinical IT front. Our world nowadays is driven by data. Laboratories generate hundreds of thousands of data points every day. Those data points are essential to control the process and – using the right clinical information management tools – labs can inform the decisions taken by both the automation system and by healthcare professionals themselves. In turn, this can benefit the entire lab organisation. If we start thinking about clinical IT as a central point for laboratory operations, we’ll uncover new ways to reduce waste and streamline workflow while maintaining control over the process.