Automation Budgeting


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

This past year has been extraordinary in all facets, but the practice of health care has been particularly rocked, as it would be, by this ongoing, global pandemic. And while the clinical laboratory has shouldered the enormous task of adapting to a drastic workload change while also ensuring that the normal services provided continue uninterrupted, this responsibility has not been without its share of challenges. Perhaps more than ever, clinical laboratories rely upon the dynamic experience and skill sets of a variety of medical laboratory scientists, pathologists, technologists, and other essential roles to operate at peak performance. The other half of the equation involves the stalwart, reliable, sophisticated, and robust automation and technology that in the right hands, can bring to bear true patient health care and sustain and apply medical breakthroughs to combatting disease now, and in the future.

With the business of running a laboratory in mind, the director must seek to budget for all costs (eg, instrumentation, information services interfaces, maintenance, upgrades, consumables, waste, etc), develop accurate ROIs, and be prepared to explain how new automation and related technology will positively impact the patient through metrics such as reduced length of stay, improved drug therapy decisions, reduced TAT, reduced specimen needs, and so on. As always, encourage front-line staff to provide input on how automation will benefit their work, while also considering all technical and human resources, and the reduction of risk.

Moving forward, the acquisition of advanced technologies will remain crucial to servicing the ever-growing needs and desires of today’s clinicians. No doubt laboratory directors are besieged with requests from all clinical disciplines, so these must be prioritized according to utility and benefit. MedicalLab Management continues to champion the support of clinical laboratories through the acquisition of new automation and technology.


Throughout the previous 6 years, the number of hospital labs receiving solid administration support of their automation budgets has averaged 68%. While a majority of facilities (58%) continue to enjoy this support, this year saw an increasing number of facilities switch budgetary allotments from lab automation to other areas.


Almost half (43%) of facilities expect to have the same automation budget next year as this year, but an encouraging 17% foresee an increase.


Projections farther into the future also hold hope that automation budgets will continue to increase for invaluable technology in the laboratory.

 

As might be expected given the circumstances, what had been consistently growing automation budget projections took a slight downturn this year.


Despite the challenges faced in 2020, longer term automation budget projections enjoy a consistently positive forecast.

 

It is notable that overall lab budgets have stayed the same or even increased for 62% of facilities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Hospital laboratories servicing facilities with more than 200 beds field a wide strata of automation budgets, with some peaking at over $15 million annually. While those facilities with under 200 beds tend to fall below the $1 million annual mark, those numbers are being pushed higher each year.

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