As technological breakthroughs continue to be made in laboratory science, clinical labs remain reliant on fundamental technologies to manage day-to-day operations; one glance at the list of Key Technologies on page 5 bears this out. However, as these stalwart technologies also continue to grow in sophistication and features, there remains a need to unite data producing instruments together in order to harness the significant power of transparent, near-real-time operations information. Moving forward, clinical laboratory operations will continue to depend heavily on technology advancements, comprising a variety of automated and manual diagnostic instruments, bridging middleware, software-based algorithms, and developing methodologies. Given this dependence, MedicalLab Management will continue to examine the context of these technologies.
In the third quarter of 2017, MLM polled a random, nationwide sample of laboratory directors and administrators. We asked about technology adoption rates, satisfaction with technology vendors, and plans to purchase new systems. Responses were solicited via email and a total of 389 responses from hospital-based facilities were received, yielding a confidence interval of 4.80 (95% +/- 4.80) based on the total population of laboratory directors nationwide.
As technology budgets for clinical laboratories are expected to grow, particularly in the long term (see page 10), facility decisions regarding consolidation and outreach create greater opportunities for the laboratory to acquire heretofore unjustifiable instruments and automation. Many of the technology types covered in this survey project high rates of upgrade or replacement within 2-3 years, suggesting both a heavy workload and an interest in new capabilities.
Hallmark technologies such as hematology and coagulation analyzers are among the diagnostic tools with the highest satisfaction rates. Likewise, some of the most straightforward technologies, such as centrifuges and refrigerators, are well regarded.
Top Satisfaction Ratings
We gauged those technologies over which lab management has the greatest acquisition influence and interestingly (and perhaps unsurprisingly), the amount of influence a lab director has over technology acquisition is directly proportional to the satisfaction ratings for those technologies. This suggests that lab directors who are able to influence the review and acquisition of lab technology also find success in its application.
With this in mind, it is essential that laboratory leadership have a seat at the table when acquisition plans for laboratory technology and automation are discussed and determined. Such input is particularly key for communication and database systems such as the LIS, which have a wide-ranging impact on the laboratory.
Given the relative parity of many clinical practices and the reduction in cost of previously esoteric testing instruments, laboratory directors have more opportunities than ever before to acquire truly tailored technology and automation packages. With these choices comes the responsibility to make informed decisions with input from staff and facility administration. We look forward to seeing what 2018 has in store regarding the latest and greatest developments in clinical laboratory technology, and we hope you will continue to turn to MLM for the guidance you need.
David McCormick is the managing editor of MedicalLab Management.
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