Turnaround time (TAT) is the universally accepted method of describing the efficiency of laboratory services, often described as the time between a test being requested and the result of the said test being available to the clinician. In this instance, TAT encompasses the pre-analytical phase of the process, including the time taken to transport blood samples to the laboratory1.
Whilst processing blood samples and running tests require a certain amount of time, it is possible to reduce the turnaround time by decrease the time taken to deliver the samples to the laboratory.
Around 80% of all diagnoses are based on blood analyses, making the total process around blood analysis a vital and extremely important process in daily hospital work. Fast, reliable and trustable results of the analysis are at the utmost importance.
A fast blood analysis result means a faster treatment which is beneficial for both the patient and the hospital. Reduced waiting time can lead to more happy and satisfied patients. Additionally, a fast blood analysis result can also reduce the financial costs for the hospital – i.e. reduced number of hospitals day.
The issue around a fast analysis of sample tubes in the laboratory has been a key subject for laboratory managers for many years. Today, sample tubes are processed at a speed where the turnaround time (TAT) can now only be marginally improved. The focus is then to find solutions on how to reduce the turnaround time already from the point of drawing the blood.
Business cases show that transporting blood sample tubes with traditional pneumatic tube systems or manually transporting blood sample tubes by staff, can take up to 2 hours.
The Total Turnaround Time will reach average 120 minutes of which only 30 minutes of the Total Turnaround Time is a result of laboratory work.
The automation of laboratories has developed to optimize the processes by which hospitals analyze blood samples in order to save precious time, resources, and money.
Automation is a way for hospitals to capitalize on new technologies within the available equipment that can create new and improved processes – leading to crucial savings in today’s hospital environment, which – unfortunately – is dominated by two forces pulling in opposite directions: budget cuts and increased demand and productivity.
Investing in means of automated laboratory systems will increase the productivity of sample testing, which leads to a significantly reduced process cycle time by the lab. In turn, this can yield a higher degree of both efficiency and effectiveness in the lab. Thus, enabling the doctors to a quicker diagnosis, which can have spillover effects in reduced costs, such as the unnecessary cost involved in occupied beds, cleaning, food, or more importantly securing beds for patients truly needing to be committed into the hospital.
However, automation can start before the lab!
Transporting samples via porters or traditional pneumatic tube systems (PTS) can cause unnecessary delays to blood sample TAT.
By implementing a dedicated, Point-to-Point transporting pipe, blood sample tubes can now be transported from the point of taking the blood sample and directly into the blood analysis equipment in the laboratory. The transporting time will be reduced from average 90 minutes to less than one minute. This solution reduces the Total Turnaround Time (ToTAT) dramatically and in most cases to below one hour.
We are specialists in dedicated Point-to-Point transporting solutions and our Tempus600 and a rapidly growing number of hospitals have already installed Tempus600.
Installing the Tempus600 system will significantly decrease sample transportation time from the ward to the lab. Hence, Tempus600 further increases the already enhanced parameters and aims of the automated lab itself.
In the Tempus600 systems, a sample travels 7-10 meters per second. Depending on the length of the pipeline, the transport time varies from seconds to maximum a couple of minutes.
Samples are sent from the ward directly to the lab using no special containers. This further improves the transportation time by reducing the time taken to pack and unpack PTS pods, without errors or hemolysis.
In the lab, it is possible to connect the Tempus600 system with the bulk loaders or sorters of the automation system. It enables even quicker responses and prevents unnecessary costs and resources spent on staff “transit-times”. This way valuable and competent staff, time and financial resources are used where they matter most.
Installing Tempus600 in conjunction with an automated lab system creates a “one-touch” per sample situation since only the person drawing the blood is in direct contact with the sample until the analysis is complete. Therefore, operating costs are reduced, the risk of error due to human intervention is decreasing, and it yields the ability to provide higher quality data.
The capacity of each of the Tempus600 installations is several samples per minute, which in turn assures an even flow of samples reaching the lab; as opposed to the arrival of massive batches of samples.
As a result of this ongoing delivery, the initial investment in laboratory equipment could be smaller due to the reduction of sample queuing in peak hours.
As response times are lessened in the laboratory there are still several hands involved in getting to the lab. By combining the installation of a Tempus600 system with an automated laboratory, even more benefits, savings and better turnaround times are realized. The result is a drastically reduced turnaround time.
1 Higgins, C, ‘Pneumatic Tube Transport of Blood Samples – an Update’, acutecaretesting.org, 2015, available from: https://acutecaretesting.org/en/articles/pneumatic-tube-transport-of-blood-samples--an-update
2 Al-Talib, M and Leslie, I, ‘Speeding Up Laboratory Test Reporting in Medical Emergency and Cardiac Arrest Calls: A Quality Improvement Project’, BMJ Quality Improvement Reports, 2017 (6), available from: http://bmjopenquality.bmj.com