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Finding the Right Balance: Automated and Manual Workflow Process

Presenter: William N. DeSalvo III BS HTL(ASCP)
March 23, 2017
10:00 AM PT / 1:00 PM ET

Managing the pathology process is complicated and often creates conflict. How much automation can be used, or more correctly how much automation will my manual process support? Which raises the question, if automation offers so many benefits, why aren’t all Pathology laboratories fully automated?
Manual processes put pressure on people to be correct, in all details of their work, at all times; the problem is that people aren’t perfect, however much we wish we were.  With manual processes the level of service (rate and quality) is dependent on individuals and this puts a requirement on management to provide training continuously for staff to keep them motivated and to ensure they are following the correct procedures. As we all know, it can be all too easy to accidentally switch materials or details and end up with inconsistency in quality and delay Turnaround Time. This is often an area where significant money can be saved by implementing automation.
When mistakes are made or changes or corrections are needed, often a manual process must be completely reworked rather than just updated. There is always the obvious balance of cost vs benefit, as a laboratory grows and adds people and functions the benefits of automation increases. But, when a laboratory is growing that’s the time to implement automation, however that is also the time that there is substantial pressure on existing resources and it becomes the hardest time to make a change.
The most significant factor to be considered before automating the process, good processes must already be in place. Just dropping in automation, in most cases, won’t improve the process. The most effective way to get return on investment from automation is where a good manual process exists, find the right balance.

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