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 to acquire custom technology and automation packages. With these choices comes the responsibility to make informed decisions with input from staff and facility administration.
As technological breakthroughs continue to be implemented into clinical laboratories with exciting promises for future expansion, those same labs remain reliant on fundamental technologies to manage day-to-day operations; one glance at the list of Key Technologies gives credence to this idea. As stalwart technologies continue to grow in sophistication and features, the pressure increases to unite data producing instruments in order to harness the significant power of transparent, near-real-time operations information. 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 2019, 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 366 responses from hospital-based facilities were received, yielding a confidence interval of 366 (95% +/- 4.94%) based on the total population of laboratory directors nationwide.
A substantial range of technologies are deemed key to successful operations in the clinical lab, with 17 different categories selected by over 30% of facilities. Core chemistry, hematology, and coagulation, along with the information systems to manage that testing, remain essential.
A new section, Molecular Diagnostics, debuted at number 1 on this year’s list of technologies with which the laboratory is most satisfied. Microbiology platforms did not fall far to number 2 after topping the list last year, and continually maturing technologies, such as coagulation analyzers, refrigeration systems, and hematology analyzers remain among the diagnostic tools with the highest satisfaction rates. Interestingly, complex systems (including molecular diagnostics and flow cytometry) are as highly regarded as more straightforward technologies, such as centrifuges and water purification systems.
Top Satisfaction Ratings
1. Molecular Diagnostics
2. Microbiology Platforms
3. Coagulation Analyzers
4. Refrigerators & Freezers
6. Flow Cytometry
7. Hematology Analyzers
8. Water Purification Systems
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. With this in mind, it is essential that laboratory leadership has a seat at the table when acquisition plans for laboratory technology and automation is discussed and determined.
We are proud to note that 80% of laboratory directors rely on MLM for assistance in technology acquisition decisions.
Although the focus of this issue (and the survey it is based upon) is trained upon the need for automation and technology, the fact remains that a clinical laboratory cannot function without educated, skilled, and engaged personnel. Today’s clinical laboratories rely on a complex system of advanced technologies coupled with the expertise and experience of laboratorians in order to ensure safety and operational success. A narrow margin for error is implicit in the health care environment, and few clinical disciplines are subject to greater scrutiny than the clinical laboratory. At MLM, we have a healthy appreciation for the responsibilities of laboratory management and we hope you will continue to turn to MLM for the answers you need.
David McCormick is the managing editor of MedicalLab Management.
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