Renee LeMaire-Adkins: Patient care is a 24/7 process, but in many microbiology laboratories that is not the case. Often, culture reading is performed in one shift, sometimes two. Culture reading performed outside of the day shift is typically limited, with STAT testing and specimen processing being the primary focus. Microbiology labs often have a bench-centric mindset, and it has been that way for decades.
Microbiology automation, while still relatively new, completely changes that perspective. It facilitates 24/7 testing and reporting of results, which provides a greater impact to patient care decisions. After their initial introduction to the preanalytical processing area, instruments such as the DxM Autoplak increase productivity, providing automated flexibility that adapts to the lab's current processes and ensures quality of streaking for accurate results. The addition of full automation in microbiology supports increased productivity in all processes in the lab and an improvement in quality, all of which have a direct impact on time to result and thus patient care.
Every laboratory environment faces the same challenges, and microbiology is no different. Challenges include decreasing reimbursement, retirements and staffing shortages, increasing antimicrobial resistance and constant fear of consolidation. Microbiology automation addresses a significant portion of these challenges by automating manual processes, minimising errors and increasing productivity through streamlined workflow and support.
For example, staffing shortages are one of the biggest challenges for any lab, meaning microbiologists often have to perform manual tasks such as processing samples. With instruments like the DxM Autoplak the microbiologist is freed up to perform those more complex tasks such as reading and reporting cultures, performing molecular testing, and potentially increasing culturereading capabilities in multiple shifts
The introduction of automation to a microbiology lab has many benefits, directly impacting on workflow and productivity. The addition of a pre-analytical processing instrument could potentially automate the manual workload of two to three FTE's, often decreasing manual labour related to processing by close to 74%. The redeployment of FTE resources provides additional support to the laboratory staff, improves productivity to manage increasing volumes. It also allows the lab to prepare for staff reductions or retirements, and increases testing capacity on multiple shifts. There is often a marked decrease in overtime after implementing automation due to the staff being able to better manage the workload. A significant benefit to the automated plating is the decreased need for subculturing bacterial isolates, which leads to a faster turnaround time (TAT) when reporting culture results.
The DxM Autoplak has the smallest footprint of pre-analytical analysers available for streaking media plate and allows for a lean placement in the microbiology lab. The system is reliable, and has an open platform for several types of containers. Its barcode scanning allows for full traceability of the specimen all the way through the microbiology process.
About 95-98% of all specimen types can be processed. With the variety of transport mediums and enrichment broths, almost every sample type, including tissue, stool and sputum, can be transformed into a liquid format for easy processing.
The DxM Autoplak has an open system for simultaneous container processing, so batching is not based on container dimensions. The system has a wide range for minimum or maximum dimensions, allowing any lab, with or without outreach clinics, to maintain most of their sample containers.
The DxM Autoplak is extremely userfriendly and most installations involve almost a simple plug-and-play process. The design and footprint result in a lean installation in the lab, as it can be placed against a wall with minimal clearance on the sides. With the support of dedicated applications specialists, configuration and training is simple, allowing current processes to be defined in the instrument and processing samples to begin quickly and efficiently.
The DxM Autoplak has a standard HL7 format to allow connectivity to any LIS. The system works off a bidirectional query to 'request' the specimen information from the LIS for processing.