Find Balance Through Lab Technology

November 2021 - Vol.10 No. 10 - Page #4

Upheaval has been the operational constant for the past 20-plus months and signs indicate this is likely to be an ongoing trend, although hopefully at a lower intensity level. Most laboratory directors have dedicated significant time to dealing with the downstream disruptions resulting from staffing shortages, COVID testing and vaccine management, supply chain disruptions, and limitations to on-site vendor and consultant meetings. In these turbulent times, the steadfast value provided by dependable laboratory technology is irreplaceable. As such, the past year has seen a strong commitment to maximize the utility of existing laboratory technology.

The numerous challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic continue to evolve, and while we are optimistic about the future, laboratory’s ability to remain flexible while optimizing automation is essential. The most obviously positive sign is that despite these challenges, facilities are dedicating increased budget allocations and are spending more to improve technology and relieve staff stress.

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 2021. We inquired about technology adoption rates, satisfaction with technology vendors, and plans to purchase new systems. Responses were solicited via email and a total of 317 responses were received, yielding a confidence interval of 5.33 (95% +/- 5.33%) based on the total population of laboratory directors nationwide.

Data Show Clear Growth

Among several positive signs, increases in both budgets and technology acquisitions due to the COVID-19 pandemic response should serve to benefit laboratories for the next several years. The utilization of robotic sample handling is trending upward, and increasingly sophisticated analyzers and related instruments in chemistry, hematology, microbiology, and molecular diagnostics remain essential to quality operations.

Laboratory stalwarts in chemistry, hematology, coagulation, and urinalysis analyzers make up the core of many operations, and supporting technology in centrifuges, POCT, and temperature control garner appropriate attention as well.

Click here to view a larger version of this Chart.

Almost 8 out of 10 laboratory decision makers use MLM as a purchasing resource.

Many smaller, community-based hospital laboratories are joining their larger peers by investing in advanced technologies and instruments. The safety delivered via technology acquisitions should not benefit only larger systems and academic institutions.

Top Satisfaction Rates

1. Hematology Analyzers

2. Molecular Diagnostics

3. Microbiology Platforms

4. Coagulation Analyzers Systems

6. Refrigerators/Freezers

5. Centrifuges

7. Flow Cytometry

8. Water Purification

Numerous technologies in the lab receive strong satisfaction ratings and it is interesting to see the variety of systems—and related practice areas—with which laboratories are most satisfied.

Technology acquisitions increased and postponements are down over last year, both excellent signs.


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.

Today’s clinical laboratories rely on the coupling of advanced technologies with the expertise of laboratorians 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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