Have you ever walked into an enterprise where positivity hangs in the air, every process is smooth as butter, the staff are focused on what they do, yet seem to enjoy their work so much, they smile?
Chances are, the enterprise uses automation in every process of its workflow to offload the task responsibility on employees’ shoulders and focus instead on providing better service. This was a general example. Now let us talk about diagnostic/pathology laboratories.
With hundreds or even thousands of patients walking in each day, laboratories have an arduous workflow that starts from registering the patient until the report is handed out. Employees have a hard time keeping score of the inventory, samples, storage, tests, billing procedures, insurance and the micro-processes in each of these process buckets. Moreover, since staff depend on each other to complete a given task, this gives rise to bottlenecks, loss of productivity, a monotonous work day for staff and a poor experience for patients. Automating a laboratory not only removes redundancy, but also frees up more time for staff to perform a greater number of tests, and yeah — smile more often.
That being said, automating a laboratory is no piece of cake, given the constraint of resources and the variety of options. It is important to have a comprehensive view of the challenges that lie ahead, segregating the priorities and ascertaining the cost benefit analysis of each. While adopting laboratory automation, the processes can be largely broken down into three stages:
Pre analytic Stage — This includes all the processes and micro processes from registering the patient until the sample is ready for testing.
Analytic Stage — This includes the sample testing and preparing the reports.
Post Analytic Stage — This includes readying the reports to be sent to the concerned department, billing and insurance procedures, daily maintenance and shutdown.
In highly efficient laboratories, these processes occur seamlessly and often simultaneously, by storing information on the cloud. Identifying the scope of automation under each of these processes is as important as preparing for resistance to change by staff. Let’s talk about them one by one.
For each micro-process, analyze whether it is being done in the best possible manner or not. If, for example, you’re planning to use an LIMS for chemical inventory management, make sure that the software is efficiently mapped to your inventory processes. The task doesn’t end at just employing machines and lab information systems, as it is possible to have an automated inefficient system if implementation is poor!
Resistance to change
From the very beginning, draw out a clear implementation road map in as detailed a manner as possible and keep your employees aware of the impending change. Countering the resistance to change is the first step towards garnering the support of your staff, and it is done when you communicate regularly and effectively. Explain the benefits of adopting automation clearly and elaborate how exactly it will boost their productivity and make the workplace smoother for them. Through training, prepare staff for their new roles which will incorporate handling the new technologies and tools so that they feel supported throughout the journey.