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Preventing Lab Errors with Automation

Make Eliminating Lab Errors Your Goal


Lab worker pipetting

We’ve discussed the monetary loss behind lab errors in previous posts, but we haven’t written much about the serious dangers of mislabeling or mixing up lab samples. It’s true that up to 25% of lab tests go unbilled, and it’s estimated that up to 93% of errors occur pre- or post-analysis, indicating misplacement and human error. This is certainly detrimental to laboratory income. However, perhaps the biggest issue of all is that approximately 12.5% of these errors have some effect on patient health, some severe or even fatal. Not only can this injure the reputation and income of the lab, it hurts the people who really matter — the patients themselves.

Patient health should be the topmost priority of any clinical laboratory, as they exist to test and pinpoint areas of concern in order to help with diagnosis and treatment. The idea that lab errors could be negatively affecting patients rather than helping them, sometimes horribly, is a very frightening one. At some point, saving money becomes tertiary to maintaining an organized laboratory environment and making sure patient results are not being lost or mixed up. The well-being of the people the lab services has to take priority. Even a single preventable error that affects a patient’s health is one error too many.

We’ve gone over several ways to help improve the efficiency and organization for clinical labs. A good starter investment is definitely a barcode system, which will make labeling much more accurate. A Laboratory Information System is handy for interfacing to the billing system, which helps with finances, but it’s equally effective at interfacing instruments, Electronic Medical Records, barcode scanners, and more to drastically reduce the likelihood of lab errors. When all of your electronics and record systems are unified under a common system, it makes locating and maintaining patient information much easier and more reliable.

Don’t make the mistake of sacrificing patient welfare for cheap-but-inefficient automation solutions. If there’s one area that’s worth the money, it’s making sure the patients who rely on your accuracy are putting their faith in the right lab.

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