5 Effective Ways to Improve a Medical Lab’s Turnaround Time

Improving a medical lab’s turnaround time is a meaningful step that many medical labs strive to take. But, some ways to improve turnaround might work for some medical labs and not for others. Successful implementation needs the input of all team members and the implementation of strategies that suit the specific lab’s structure. The following five steps can play a significant role in improving a medical lab’s turnaround time.

1. Laboratory Automation

This is an effective way to minimize manual sample processing stages, enabling the personnel to do other things while preparing and analyzing the samples. Automation can also be done on a small scale by having automation systems that label, aliquot, decap, and centrifuge, which reduces the turnaround time for routine and stat samples. In addition, automation can reduce human error occurrences, ensuring a higher service quality to the patient.

2. Use One Day Next-Generation Sequencing

Next-generation sequencing detects abnormalities across the genome, including chromosome translocations/inversions, copy number changes, duplications, insertions, deletions, and substitutions. It detects all the abnormalities through less DNA than in conventional sequencing methods. This ensures a faster turnaround time, and it is also less costly.

3. Auto-Verification

This is done through Laboratory Information System to verify test results through computer-based instructions without manual intervention. Auto-verification identifies potentially illogical results and includes decisions concerning a range of values and checks. It includes delta checks, analytical measurement ranges, interference indices, critical values, reference ranges, and error flags. Implementing auto-verification improves the medical lab’s turnaround times as the staff can focus on a few problematic samples rather than thousands of results. It also helps recognize rare events that manual verification cannot spot.

4. Consolidate Areas for Equipment

The laboratory layout can be adjusted to decrease turnaround time. Consolidating laboratory equipment can save time that staff waste by transporting samples back and forth. While designing your lab, it is good to have an affinity diagram to establish the lab divisions that share resources. It would be ideal for placing equipment following a logical plan considering one or more defining factors. For example, the incoming samples section can be located close to the specimen intake section to allow quick processing.

5. Use the Correct Labels and Barcodes

Barcode failure is a major hindrance in improving turnaround time in medical labs. Unreadable barcodes require re-labeling of the sample, and this process can take up to five minutes per sample, which can demotivate lab personnel. The medical lab can use a thermal-transfer printer as it generates high-quality barcodes that resist chemical exposure, abrasion, and other severe laboratory conditions. Xylene-resistant labels may also be useful as they endure histochemical reagents, such as hematoxylin, eosin, and xylene. They are also not affected by chemicals that might leak and destroy the label when the sample is in transit, such as formalin.

While implementing all these measures to reduce medical lab TAT, the staff working in the lab also need training and sensitization. They should be efficient in using the automation and auto-verification systems to ensure that the turnaround time for most tasks in the lab is reduced.

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