• Stefanie Bosshart, PhD

Three Reasons To Automate Specimen Collection Kit Assembly

With the number of laboratory tests growing as rapidly as the population, in addition to the continued shortage of skilled laboratory workers, task automation is no longer a nice to have but a must have. In the United States, approximately 17 billion laboratory tests are performed every year in a number of testing sites which include hospital laboratories, independent reference laboratories, dialysis centers, patient service centers (PSC), or even in a patient’s home [1]. These laboratories and test sites are seeing an increase in efficiency, accuracy and profit by assembling patient lab orders into customized kits, either at point-of-care or pre-assembled and shipped.


Many of the challenges presented by high volume specimen testing can be overcome with automated tube labeling and automated specimen kit assembly. Today, tube labeling and specimen collection kit assembly is a mostly manual process which involves many different tasks such as selecting the correct tube, applying a barcoded label, grouping them into a kit and so on. Each one of these manual tasks take up to thirty seconds each, amounting to several minutes per kit or lab order. In addition to sunk time cost, these manual tasks have a human error factor that may lead to further inefficiencies or errors resulting in events that adversely affecting the patient. By automating this labeling and kitting process, a laboratory or kitting manufacturer can realize increased efficiency, profit, cost savings, and accuracy. We see three common ways in which automation can be applied to improve a facility’s ROI on a process:


Reduce Labor Costs by Implementing Task Automation

Because labor accounts for 60% of the average laboratory’s budget, reducing this immense cost is at the forefront of becoming a lean operation and automation, an essential approach to process improvement, may enable labs to reduce their staff by up to 30% [2,3]. In fact, in a study on the number of repetitive motion injuries involving time away from work, Clinical Lab Technicians were found to be 7.8 times more likely to suffer one of these injuries as compared to the average of all occupations [4]. With the Kairos ID GNT9 Series, you are able to automate all of the labor-intensive, repetitive tasks involved in preparing and assembling a patients’ lab order or kit, allowing highly trained staff members to be put to better use.


Improve Efficiencies to Increase Profitability

There is no doubt that laboratory automation improves process efficiency and often results in cost savings and better profits. While most large-scale labs have implemented automation in their sample processing lines, the technology to automate the specimen collection process is only now becoming available. In a study conducted at Severance Hospital in Seoul, South Korea, the automation of specimen collection kit assembly was found to be five times faster than the manual assembly process [5]. The Kairos ID GNT9 perfectly labels each tube in under two seconds and assembles full patient kits in under twelve seconds, allowing the user to create new efficiencies and streamlining processes driving cost reduction and profitability.


Reduce Human Error and Poorly Applied Labels Which Leads to Testing Downtime

Because much of the analytical phase of lab testing has been automated, for most tests, the specimen tube can be checked in and added to an automation line for processing. As the tube moves through these lines, the unique barcoded label is scanned to be associated with the analyzer data. For these automation lines to run smoothly, the scannability of the barcode is essential. If the barcoded label is applied to the tube crooked or wrinkled, it is possible that the label cannot be scanned, stalling the automation line analyzer. Even worse, if a label is missing from a tube, the specimen is considered lost and that patient must have their sample collected again, possibly delaying treatment and diagnosis [6]. Automation is the most useful in repetitive, error-prone tasks, therefore the Kairos ID GNT9 can ensure that every tube is labeled perfectly and wrinkle-free, reducing those human labeling errors that result in repeat tests and automation line downtime.


Automation is changing every aspect of healthcare, and specimen kit assembly is no different. By replacing the manual tasks of specimen kit dispensing and assembly, you can address common staffing concerns, increase efficiencies, and reduce labeling errors. Learn more about the GNT9 Series or enter your test volume details into our Kairos ID ROI calculator and receive an immediate estimate of your potential savings due to wages and error reduction.

References:

1. AACC Government Relations Committee, 2015 (2015, October 7). Laboratory Medicine: Advancing Quality in Patient Care. https://www.aacc.org/health-and-science-policy/aacc-policy-reports/2015/laboratory-medicine-advancing-quality-in-patient-care#2

2. Macmillan, D. H. (2003). Elements of a Typical Laboratory Budget. Laboratory Medicine, 34(7), 515–519. doi: 10.1309/99f7nnj09m3tgqhw

3. Kimberly Scott (2017, June 1). Automation Step by Step: Evaluating Core Lab Solutions https://www.aacc.org/publications/cln/articles/2017/june/automation-step-by-step-evaluating-core-lab-solutions

4. Nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work, 2015. News Release, Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor.

5. Engerium, Onsite study conducted at Severance Hospital, Seoul, South Korea. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4697343/pdf/alm-36-49.pdf

6. Kahn S, Jarosz C, Webster K, et al. Improving process quality and reducing total expense associated with specimen mislabeling in an academic medical center. Poster. 2005 Institute for Quality in Laboratory Medicine Conference: Recognizing Excellence in Practice. April 28, 2005.


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