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Belgian Lab Manager Veronique De Vroey Elaborates on Her Experiences in Updating a Laboratory’s Automation Track
Antwerp University Hospital (UZA) updated its laboratory with a new automation track. Clinical biology lab manager Veronique De Vroey was driven by the ultimate goal of better performance.
What was the experience for you and your team of dismantling the old ADVIA® LabCell® track?
De Vroey: Initially there was some concern because people were very used to working with an automated track. We made an inventory of all the steps that the old track did for us. We mapped and documented the entire process flow and then converted and configured it in our LIS (laboratory information system). As well as the usual processing of results, the LIS is also capable of taking over some of the laboratory workflows. The LIS also helped us to maintain a good sample flow during the interim phase without a track, which is usually performed automatically by the track’s routing software.
How did you facilitate the transition phase to the new Aptio™ Automation system?
De Vroey: We created a ‘Quick Guide’ for each workstation explaining in bullet points how people on that work station had to work. It would say where to retrieve the samples from, how to put them in the analyser, whether you had to scan them to see in the LIS what the next station was, and whether you had to return them to the sample bench.
The combination of all these components – the sample bench, the workflow in our LIS system, the ‘Quick Guide’ at every workstation, and the archiving module – meant that we were manually performing the automated process from start to finish.
This project must have demanded a very particular approach in terms of the staff, too.
De Vroey: When we moved across to the new system, we made sure to have enough support from both lab technicians and laboratory staff on the floor. Interactivity was very important for the project team, too. We held meetings between our people and Siemens’ people every week. We selected five of our laboratory technicians with different areas of expertise to join us on the project team. The five lab technicians were involved throughout the whole journey and so gained a lot of expertise with the new system. One of them was always present as an extra hand, every day. They were also involved in training and support of staff members who were still new to the system. Once the new system had been installed, the lab technicians gave support during our testing of selecting samples, exploring possibilities…
So how did you get to the current layout?
De Vroey: The layout was determined during the project preparation stage after a number of discussion rounds with the Healthcare Consulting Services specialists from Siemens. We made a conscious decision to opt for a horseshoe shape. In our setting, all the high throughput routine equipment faces inwards: the shorter the distance you have to cover, the better. The lab technicians working nights and weekends don’t need to walk too far to follow up on their samples, which makes their work much easier.
Did the Aptio Automation system impact the turnaround time (TAT)?
De Vroey: The time taken for a tube to do a circuit of the track is just two minutes longer than with the ADVIA LabCell system. That is pretty good when you factor in that the current track is almost twice the length of the old one. Setting up the devices makes a big difference, however. Turnaround time has been reduced significantly – from registration to result – to somewhere between 50 and 60 minutes for the basic chemistry, where we previously averaged around 80 minutes. This was partly made possible thanks to the track’s intelligent design, the configuration of the routings in the track software, and the performance of the input module.
What is the main impact of this new installation on your business in just a few words?
De Vroey: A better TAT, of course, and consequently a better response time with regard to clinicians and patients. In the laboratory, too, everything is faster and there is an atmosphere of greater calm and stability. When the sample feed runs well, everything flows through with ease. People spend less time troubleshooting which means less pressure. Overall, the new track is more efficient, has greater stability, and is easier to maintain.
Thank you for your time.
Comparison of the Number of Tests and the TAT Before and After Installation of Aptio Automation
The bars show the number of minutes (p90, scale on the left axis) from the moment that the tube is registered in the laboratory until the moment the result is available. The dots represent the number of requests for that parameter (scale on the right axis) to show any correlation between the number of requests the laboratory receives and the TAT. In week 10, UZA moved from the LabCell system to manual operations and in week 25 to the Aptio Automation system. From this point, a stable reduction in TAT can be seen, to around 55-60 minutes.