Increasing Lab Efficiency with First-in-Country Automation Line
A Round of Applause for ACL-HZ’s Successful Installation!
Congratulations to the Hazleton Acute Care Lab, located inside Lehigh Valley Hospital – Hazleton, for the successful installation of their new DxA 5000 Fit automation line! HNL Lab Medicine remains at the forefront of innovative technology and modernization.The DxA 5000 Fit Workflow Automation System, a Beckman Coulter product, is the first of its kind to be installed in the United States. The effort, teamwork, and dedication of the Hazleton Acute Care Lab (ACL-HZ) staff made this incredible achievement possible. Multiple teams including Information Services, HNL and ACL-HZ Facilities, Beckman Coulter, and ACL-HZ worked together to customize the new technology to fit the space of the laboratory.
The installation was not without its challenges. Disruptions in the manufacturing and supply-chains caused major shipping delays. After being transported from Germany or Japan, each piece of the assembly had to pass through customs, which further delayed the arrival of components. This resulted in a lengthy process that was expertly accommodated by the staff at ACL-HZ.
“HNL offers a supportive, helpful, and collaborative environment. Multiple departments were necessary for the installation. Their cooperation made this project possible,” said Amy Hoherchak, Director of Clinical Operations. “Everyone deserves a lot of credit.” The DxA 5000 Fit allows the integration of laboratory instruments into the automation line for a more streamlined and efficient workflow. “It’s been months of technologists getting their instruments validated and then training front-line staff to feel comfortable,” said Amy Hoherchak. “After receiving all the components in July, it’s been like a puzzle trying to fit the track and all of the instrument connections into the lab.”
“Unexpected issues emerged during the installation in the lab that were able to be evaluated and rectified. The vendor can take these unexpected issues and experiences to improve their next installation. We are all proud to be part of this process.” The installation of the DxA 5000 Fit will increase the lab’s capabilities, improving its efficiency and turnaround times. “The new automation line serves to future-proof the growing lab and its capacity,” said Dickinson Lo, Senior Technical Project Manager. “The installation planning began one year ago and is part of HNL’s modernization and automation initiative. This will bring new instruments and automation lines to our labs.”
The automation line will eliminate 7-10 manual processes per specimen. The three main categories of streamlined processes include receiving, distribution, and centrifugation of specimens. The machine’s robotic arm is used to sort specimens. Unsuitable specimens and those to be examined in other departments are rerouted to the proper holding areas. It also routes specimens to three brand new laboratory instruments which have been integrated into the automation line.
The DxA 5000 Fit uses smart vision to photographically analyze specimens of various sizes for quality and integrity. “The smart vision is similar to what is used in smart cars. The camera and algorithms identify specimens based on containers and other information as opposed to using the bar code alone,” said Dickinson Lo. “It is a fascinating and exciting process.”
The automation line, in addition to increasing productivity and decreasing lab errors, provides a better work environment for laboratory staff. Unlike the conveyor belt lines of the past, the DxA 5000 Fit uses hydraulics to function, resulting in quieter operations. “The line itself is completely enclosed and there are no belts that need to be cleaned,” commented Susan Andes, Supervisor of Clinical Laboratory Operations. “Because the machine lacks exposed belts, it is safer for techs to use.”
“Due to the lab tech shortage, automation helps to alleviate the burden placed on staff. They spend less time loading and unloading racks and specimens. They can focus instead on their areas of expertise, making clinical judgements and analyzing samples,” said Susan Andes. “It is more efficient and consistent. This results in faster turn-around times.”
Following the success of the installation, HNL Lab Medicine has committed to additional DxA 5000 Fit models at its Muhlenberg and Schuylkill Acute Care Lab locations. Roble Road, Cedar Crest, and Pocono Acute Care Labs will see the installation of Beckman’s larger model, the DxA 5000, which includes adapter kits for lab instruments produced by other manufacturers. These improvements will reduce the manual work for HNL Lab Medicine staff, allowing them to focus on what matters most: providing prompt, high-quality results for our patients.