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Lifespan operates a state-of-the art laboratory, the first laboratory in the region to use Power Express technology. This system routes samples through the automated laboratory in the quickest and most efficient manner, increasing patient safety and making diagnoses faster and easier for both doctors and patients. For most patients, having blood drawn seems pretty straightforward, but how laboratories test samples and send results can be dramatically different. Our laboratories are ahead of the curve, automating almost the entire process.
"The quality is better with this advanced technology," says Douglas Anthony, MD, PhD, chief of pathology for Rhode Island and The Miriam hospitals. "It's mostly hands-off. There's no chance for cross contamination between specimens and it's 100% accurate in linking the results with the specific test tube. The beauty is that it creates the most modern lab."
Samples reach the automated laboratory from laboratories and physician offices throughout the region. Each sample is entered into the computer by a lab technician, or entered directly by the physician via Lifespan's LifeLinks system. The computer produces bar code stickers for each sample that identify the sample and the patient.
The sample is then placed into a tray with other samples and the robotics take over. The automated system includes several robotic machines and a conveyer belt. The robotics can run 34,000 tests in about three days and are controlled by bursts of pneumatic air.
With amazing speed, robotic arms pick up each tube, centrifuge each sample, divide the sample into additional tubes if necessary, perform the tests, generate results and file each sample away into a storage unit. If the physician orders additional tests on the same sample, the robotics are able to automatically retrieve the sample and send it back for more tests.
At each stage in the process, the bar code on each test tube and the tube's fluid level are automatically checked to make sure the sample is being handled correctly. If, at any stage in the process, the tube's bar code or fluid level doesn't match the computer records, the tube is automatically pulled off the system and the computer notifies a lab technician that there has been an error.
The computerized system is so precise it can perform dozens of tests on a single patient's sample and locate any sample among hundreds. The accuracy and efficiency of the process increases patient safety, because lab technicians no longer prepare, test and retrieve samples by hand. This reduces the likelihood of human error, results in more accurate and reliable test results and a safer work environment for technologists. Technologists can now spend their time checking the results and keeping the system working smoothly.
In addition, the dramatically decreased turnaround time allows physicians to receive results and diagnose patients more quickly than ever before. This is especially advantageous in emergency cases; Lifespan's automated laboratory is connected with emergency rooms at each Lifespan hospital. "Separate tracks allow the most critical samples to be tested first, explains Anthony. "It's almost like a separate lane on the highway for emergency vehicles."