Raymond D. Aller, MD
Michael Weilert, MD
ARUP Laboratories forges ahead with faster, larger, sleeker systems
ARUP Laboratories is on the fast track in more ways than one. What is already considered one of the world’s most automated clinical reference laboratories recently updated its automated transport and sorting system, which has allowed the lab to double its specimen-processing capacity.
"Over the past decade we’ve averaged over 18 percent growth rate per year in our specimen volumes," says Charles D. Hawker, PhD, scientific director of automation and special projects for Salt Lake City-based ARUP. "So the need for automation was primarily a need to handle all this large volume," he says.
ARUP’s automated transport and sorting system, built by MDS Laboratory Services, Toronto, and using MDS AutoLab technology, has been upgraded from 48 specimen-processing workstations, three high-speed primary sorters, and one storage sorter to 72 workstations and one additional primary sorter, which has doubled the specimen-processing capacity from 2,000 to 4,000 tubes per hour. The system transports and sorts 18,000 to 20,000 new specimens each day.
The lab eventually can add four sorters, bringing the system’s ultimate capacity to 8,000 tubes per hour. "Two thousand [tubes] per hour was already one of the fastest systems in the world, so this is just head and shoulders above what anybody ever dreamed of doing in laboratory automation," Dr. Hawker says.
The updated system is housed in a new three-story, 42,000-square-foot building completed last December. Inside, a sophisticated system of tracks and switches moves the tubes to the appropriate sorter. The building also houses a two-story freezer that can hold 2.35 million specimens and that contains a completely robotic storage and retrieval system (Daifuku America Corp., Salt Lake City) connected to an automated sorter that retrieves specimens needed for repeat testing from their storage trays (Motoman Inc., West Carrollton, Ohio) in less than two minutes.
In another development this year, ARUP is implementing a new software program that allows bar-code labels to be placed on specimens at the client location, instead of waiting until the specimens arrive at ARUP. Consequently, the software reduces the processing time at ARUP from one to two minutes per order to five to 10 seconds.
The lab also plans this year to implement phase one of a computerized shipment tracking system that will eventually allow ARUP to track boxes of tubes in transit. "We actually will know the contents of each box while it’s in the air, before it ever gets here," Dr. Hawker says. That system is slated to be fully operational in 2005.
ARUP, which began using bar codes and a simple conveyor system in 1992, is working toward becoming a fully robotic lab within three years or so, Dr. Hawker says. While labs that perform routine tests are often automated and may have analyzers that interface with the track system, Dr. Hawker says the sheer number of different kinds of tests performed by an esoteric lab like ARUP make linking automation and analysis a tricky, if not cumbersome, prospect.
"We’re still in the problem-solving stage, because there’s a lot of problems with putting this whole thing together for our type of laboratory," Dr. Hawker says.
One frustration is waiting for vendors to receive FDA approval for their robotic analyzers. "It’s been a waiting game for the technology to catch up with where we are," says Dr. Hawker, "and for us to get enough of a mix of those kinds of analyzers to make this a cost-productive venture."
New feature for transfusion product gets FDA clearance
Mediware Information Systems has received FDA 510(k) clearance to market the latest enhancement to its Hemocare LifeLine transfusion-management system.
The enhancement supports the integration of complex laboratory testing equipment,
allowing users to automate the complex workflows in the hospital blood bank.
Mediware Information Systems
Axolotl adds functionality to electronic health record
Axolotl Corp. has released Elysium 7.0, the latest version of its electronic
"The new functionality in Elysium 7.0 enables us to further automate
the capture of clinical data and workflow," says Robert Keet, MD, chief medical
officer at Axolotl. "Elysium now provides practice-specific encounter recording
forms for physicians who do not dictate their notes. Clinicians may also now
record vaccines and toxoids administered to patients."
Elysium 7.0 incorporates
a reengineered database for the repository, increasing the amount of historical
patient data that can be stored and retrieved. And configurable search-and-display
options have been added to the master patient index, allowing each enterprise
to customize index features.
Fletcher Flora partners with Labtest Systems
Fletcher Flora has selected Labtest Systems’ Web-based result-reporting and
order-entry system to power its LabPak NetConnect laboratory information system.
TheraDoc upgrades Web-based infection control product
TheraDoc Inc. has enhanced the reporting and alerting capabilities of its Web-based Infection Control Assistant.
The software now allows users to compare infection rates against data from the National Nosocomial Infections Surveillance System, or NNIS. It also provides an NCCLS M39 standards compliant antibiogram.
SNOMED CT now available free of charge through NLM
The English language edition of SNOMED Clinical Terms core content is now available free of charge through the National Library of Medicine’s Unified Medical Language System Metathesaurus.
SNOMED International Authority
Dr. Aller is director of bioterrorism preparedness and response for Los
Angeles County Public Health Acute Communicable Diseases. He can be reached
at firstname.lastname@example.org. Weiner is president
of Weiner Consulting Services, LLC, Florence, Ore. He can be reached at
hal@ weinerconsulting.com. Dr. Weilert is director of laboratories, Community
Hospitals of Central California, Fresno. He can be reached at email@example.com.