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The laboratory environment has been characterized by ongoing rapid and dramatic innovation. There has been remarkable growth in the range and complexity of available tests and services, which is expected to continue.
FREMONT, CA: Laboratory technology is frequently at the cutting edge of medical advances. Before effective treatment, testing techniques to diagnose or screen for a specific condition may be available in some cases. Laboratory technology innovation, which includes new tests as well as advancements in equipment and testing techniques, has made testing more efficient and automated. IT has revolutionised data transfer by reducing the time it takes to order and receive test results and by opening up opportunities for research on large datasets. Several people believe that clinical laboratory technology will become even more important in the delivery of health care in the future. The types of technology used by different types of laboratories differ greatly. The following discussion of technology trends does not imply that these trends are prevalent in all settings. Certain small laboratories, for example, lack the volume of testing required to justify automated or elaborate IT systems.
Despite some progress in automating the preanalytic phase of testing, much of the work in this phase is still done manually. Specimens are transferred efficiently using a pneumatic tubing system in some settings, such as a hospital. Specimens are frequently transported manually by courier to the testing site in an independent laboratory setting. Specimens are collected and labelled with identifying information in most settings of care before being manually entered into the laboratory computer system. Furthermore, most decisions about the specimen's volume and whether it is in the proper type of container are made by a laboratory technician, not a machine.
There are numerous possibilities for automating preanalytic processes. Specimen containers, for example, can be pre-labelled with bar codes that link specimens to identifying electronic information. Substances in the container may also automatically prepare the sample for processing. There has been advancement in optical character recognition hardware and software capable of reading labels. Computer chips embedded in the stopper of test tubes are a possibility in the future. Many processes for specimen preparation, sample quality testing, specimen transport and handling, and automatic accessioning can be automated, but they are not widely used. Internet-based test ordering may improve efficiency and reduce administrative errors during specimen collection and processing. Machines may eventually draw blood samples, and robots may transport samples from hospitalised patients to hospital laboratories.
The analytic stage of testing is more automated in most laboratory settings. Several rounds of sophisticated automation began in the 1960s, resulting in multianalyzers, which are multichannel instruments that measure a wide range of analytes. Groups of tests, known as panels or profiles, can also be run on the same sample using automated technology. In the haematology laboratory, the counting of different types of blood cells has been consolidated and expanded to include automated differentials on the same instrument. In just a few minutes, a chemistry, haematology, coagulation, or urinalysis analyzer can now produce highly precise and accurate results. Consolidation of tests and testing equipment is possible in part due to the interchangeability of operator activities for each type of test. Running tests is made easier by redesigning equipment to look and function similarly on the outside, although they perform very different operations internally.