While automation is still comparatively in its early development within the histology laboratory, the most noticeable change to the basic manual histology process so far has been the reduction of time spent at repetitive and error-prone manual steps. In a more highly automated laboratory, there is less time spent manually moving slides onto instruments and in transcribing patient data manually to reagents, cassettes, or slides. As automation progresses, it is likely that staff will begin to spend more of their time applying technical oversight at work stations interfaced with the laboratory information system (LIS), than in performing manual tasks. It is very unlikely however, that any of the histology personnel already in short supply will be displaced by any technology. The existing personnel will most likely be asked to function at a higher level and their daily tasks may be altered as a result of new technology and automation.
Some potential advantages of automation and technology for the histologist:
- Ability to provide more consistent and controllable technical and staining results.
- Reduction in turnaround times and the resulting time pressures and stress.
- Alleviating labor shortages by freeing up technical time.
- Reduction of errors and the stress that comes with maintaining constant vigilance.
- Prevention of repetitive motion disorders.
- More even distribution of work.
- Less necessity to spend hours performing a single repetitive task, which allows more task variety and opportunity for cross training, as well as increased proficiency in all areas of histology.
- Increased skills improve marketability and career opportunities for histologists.