When appropriately utilized, technology and automation can provide many benefits to the laboratory, such as an evening out of the workload and the ability to divert technical staff from long periods of repetitive activities. Two of automation's greatest benefits, however, are directed toward patient care. Effective use of automation can increase diagnostic accuracy through standardization AND simultaneously reduce the tendency for certain errors to occur. Both of these outcomes improve the quality of diagnostic patient care.
Consider the following statements related to standardization and error reduction:
- A uniform input into any system or process will tend to produce more consistent output.
- Inconsistencies and variability in a process will increase errors.
- Human error is MORE likely with repetitive, routine tasks. In contrast, instruments and technology can accomplish these types of tasks uniformly and efficiently, a fact that amounts to using automation to its best advantage.
- Automation does NOT perform well when unexpected outputs occur. Human judgment is superior and necessary for unanticipated problems and their solutions.
- A key to using technology and automation successfully is to fully understand the present flow of specimens in your laboratory, and then seek to utilize technology to make this process as efficient and accurate as possible.