College of American Pathologists
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cap today

Blood gas analyzer basics, —and beyond

September 2002
Raymond D. Aller, MD

Twenty-five blood gas analyzers from eight vendors are profiled on pages 64-88. For each analyzer, we list everything from how the operator is identified to the sampling technique and the sample size for a panel of results. The vendors of these systems supplied the information by answering CAP TODAY's questions.

Analyzer technology continues to evolve, moving more of the capabilities of the acute-care laboratory closer to the patient's bedside. Devices that originally provided only measurements of blood gases can now determine other critical-care analytes. In addition to the traditional "chem-7," some of these analyzers provide calcium, magnesium, bilirubin, lactate, or coagulation (PT, PTT, ACT) determinations, or some combination thereof.

Data-management capabilities have also progressed. The most crucial of these is positive patient identification. All but three of the devices profiled in this issue include bar-code readers that provide reliable, error-free confirmation of patient identification at the bedside.

The rate of medical errors has caused great concern, and the most serious of these errors is performing procedures on the wrong patient. As laboratory professionals, we have an obligation to ensure that test results are reliably linked with the correct patient. Positive identification of the patient at the bedside is the most crucial step.

Connectivity between analyzers and laboratory information systems is improving, too. Now that the point-of-care connectivity standard, developed by the Connectivity Industry Consortium, has been adopted as an NCCLS Standard (POCT-1A), more standard and comprehensive interfaces will strengthen this connection.

Each of the vendors listed on the survey pages has continued to build their analyzers' internal data-management capabilities-or an attached data manager-yet it is challenging for hardware-focused vendors to build into their systems a full range of sophisticated quality control and user-monitoring functions. At the same time, hospitals are recognizing that they need to connect point-of-care devices from several different vendors, and they want to manage these devices in a coherent fashion. Therefore, third-party systems for collating and managing devices from a variety of vendors are emerging. Medical Automation Systems and Telcor are among the vendors in this device-integrator market.

We urge CAP TODAY readers to talk to existing users of these devices to assess how vendors handle installation and support of their systems. Are service calls fulfilled in a timely manner? Are problems responded to appropriately?

Dr. Aller is based in Vista, Calif., and can be reached at