Striving for Laboratory Equilibrium

November 2020 - Vol.9 No. 10 - Page #4

Given the breadth of technological options available, rare is the day that the director is not presented with a new instrument or test system that could benefit the laboratory, the facility, and the patient. However, not all requests can be immediately met and due diligence into established and new market vendors is required to make informed decisions and forecast future needs.

As we continue to navigate the many challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the laboratory’s ability to remain flexible while optimizing automation is essential. When testing demand fluctuates rapidly due to product or practice changes forced by the COVID-19 response, the risk potential increases. Fortunately, much of this risk can be offset by the introduction or augmentation of laboratory technology. Thus, the value of automation and technology cannot be overstated in such a time of upheaval as has encompassed the year 2020.

To ascertain the current state of technology use in hospital laboratories, MLM polled a random, nationwide sample of laboratory directors and administrators in the third quarter of 2020. 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 313 responses from hospital-based facilities were received, yielding a confidence interval of 5.38 (95% +/- 5.38%) based on the total population of laboratory directors nationwide.

Growth Trends

As evidenced in the pages that follow, many smaller, community-based hospital laboratories are joining their larger peers by investing in advanced technologies and instruments. It is key that smaller facilities seize the opportunity to automate more practices and it is encouraging to see this bear out in this year’s data. The safety delivered via technology acquisitions should not benefit only larger systems and academic institutions.

Utilization of human-error-reducing systems are on the rise, such as robot sampling handling networks, which have increased each year since 2016, and microbiology platforms, up 9% among all facilities over last year. Use of automated temperature monitoring is at an all-time high in the 7 years of our survey, as are plans to acquire new chemistry analyzers.

A range of technologies are deemed key to successful operations in the laboratory: Chemistry, hematology, coagulation, and urinalysis analyzers join the information systems (LIS) and hardware (centrifuges) necessary to run these instruments.

Click here to view a larger version of this Chart

This is also an exciting time for new technology introductions, as we see compelling new offerings in urinalysis and hematology analyzers, among others. Vendor satisfaction with hematology analyzers has risen sharply of late, with those facilities deeming their analyzers as excellent up 18% over last year and 23% over the year before.

Top Satisfaction Ratings

1. Hematology Analyzers

2. Molecular Diagnostics

3. Microbiology Platforms

4. Coagulation Analyzers

5. Centrifuges

6. Refrigerators & Freezers

7. Water Purification Systems

8. Flow Cytometry

While several technologies utilized in the laboratory receive strong satisfaction ratings, the above 8 were particularly well rated. It is notable that those technologies over which laboratory management has the greatest acquisition influence also receive the highest user satisfaction rankings. Thus, it is essential that laboratory leadership has a seat at the table when plans for new laboratory automation and technology are determined.

Almost half (45%) of facilities report having increased technology acquisitions during the pandemic, which is a positive sign.


Today’s clinical laboratories rely on the coupling of advanced technologies with the expertise of laboratorians in order to ensure operational success. A narrow margin for error is implicit in the health care environment, and few disciplines are subject to greater scrutiny than the clinical laboratory. At MLM, we have a healthy appreciation for the responsibilities of laboratory management in these challenging times 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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