If you think, like I did until a few minutes ago, that blood tests at hospitals went into a big room full of people with white coats and pipette tubes you’d be wrong… apart from the white coats!
Here’s a great case study video from Siemens showing their Aptio Automation system working at the NHS Tayside Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, UK. It combines lots of types of testing (e.g. hematology, immumolgoy, coagulation) with all the test tubes loaded onto trays and then in they go. The operators (in the white coats still) tell the system the tests required and then it’s over to the machines. The appropriate diagnostics are all done without human intervention and then stored away, with the ability to recall them for additional tests or retests.
At Ninewells they’re currently handling nearly 2,000 tubes per hour at peak times – and when that emergency sample comes in they load it onto the tray the same as any other but the tube is then fast tracked – in the video you see it literally overtaking others.
The clinical director of the hospital says turnaround times reduced by about 25% which must have been from an already automated system as it just wouldn’t be physically possible to prepare, test and store that many sample manually in anywhere near the current processing time.
OK so it’s not yet the pin prick of blood with instant diagnosis which I’m waiting for but it’s a good start – and as always, once it’s a technology there’s nothing stopping it becoming smaller, faster and cheaper.
Video available on YouTube: Laboratory Automation Improving Patient Testing