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Informatics: The Key to Better Lab Performance


Article by Rajeev Sehgal, Director of Informatics at BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company)

Typically, microbiology labs need to manage at least four key priorities: processing results quickly and accurately; keeping costs as low as possible; communicating results efficiently to clinicians, infection control staff, nursing staff and other stakeholders; and regulatory compliance. In recent years, in addition to these ongoing demands, a number of other pressures have taken their toll: keeping down costs and staff shortages constrain their ability to process samples while increasing test volumes make it difficult for some labs to run tests and get results back to clinicians in a timely manner.

In order to face these cost and compliance challenges larger labs and hospitals have acquired more and smaller sites making hub-and-spoke model laboratories more common. Although centralisation has some benefits, this model can complicate workflows and data reporting. Informatics can mitigate these challenges and enable microbiology labs to provide clinicians with rapid diagnostic test results thus aiding clinicians in determining the most prudent treatment plans for their patients and potentially help prevent the spread of infections.

Microbiology laboratories play a critical role in helping hospitals manage infectious diseases. Being able to identify bacteria and viruses quickly may contribute to helping these facilities reduce instances of locked-down wards and healthcare associated infection (HCAI),  which studies have shown is critical to hospital reputation.  A study by MindMetre Research showed that in the UK 76% of citizens say that if they learned that their local hospital was a low performer on HCAI reduction, they would insist their general practitioner (GP) refer them to a hospital with a better record1.

Hospitals and labs often look to new diagnostics technologies to help quickly identify patients with infectious conditions for isolation as one way to mitigate potential HCAI risks. But it’s not just diagnostic tools that are needed.  Improved informatics are also required to expedite the clinical decision-making that results from diagnostic testing – whether it’s isolating a patient colonized with an antibiotic resistant infection, or quickly identifying and appropriately treating an HCAI.

In many labs, obsolete informatics put productivity at risk. Out-dated and fragmented systems require labs to carry out large amounts of work manually or rely on different middleware systems that each complete a single stage in the analysis process. These different systems are rarely integrated and may store data in different ‘silos’ or even formats, making it almost impossible to achieve a streamlined and integrated workflow or easy access across a hub-and-spoke lab network.

A single, centralized informatics system with all instruments connected through one common middleware solution, and the flexibility to connect more instruments over time, can streamline the laboratory’s operations across multiple sites making it easier to report results to clinicians and gather information needed for compliance reporting.  

Informatics can also extend the reach of key personnel. Microbiology experts have traditionally had to physically visit different labs in order to intervene and offer insight on individual cases. Improved use of informatics can reduce the need for these on-site visits by giving the experts anytime/anyplace access to the same information they would see in the lab, regardless of their location. The same virtual bacteriology/tele-microbiology capabilities can also allow busy staff to review test results from any location including their home or a congress they are attending.

Single user interfaces can simplify laboratorian training and onboarding and improve ease of use by eliminating manual processes and technological redundancies inherent in multiple middleware systems. Together, all these benefits may enable labs to provide faster turn-around, cost savings and improved efficiency, to potentially expedite decision-making by the clinical team (pharmacy, physician, infection control, nurses).

The many workflow benefits efficient informatics tools provide to microbiology labs are clear, but what ultimately matters are the potential improvements to patient care. These solutions may assist clinicians to provide more timely diagnoses, potentially speeding treatment decision-making. In addition, by enabling infection control departments to isolate potential threats in a timely manner, these faster isolation decisions may help hospitals prevent the spread of HCAIs.

1904_BD_SynapsysMicrobiologyInformaticsSolutions Watch Youtube video on how BD Synapsys™ Microbiology Informatics Solution provides clinical laboratories with secure connectivity across instruments and locations.

 

References:

1 MindMetre Research, Healthcare Associated Infections – Britons will go a long way to avoid them, published September 2014.

 

About the author: Rajeev Sehgal is an experienced healthcare professional with a proven track record in building and commercializing healthcare informatics solutions. He has an undergraduate degree in Computer Science and Engineering from IIT Varanasi, India and an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh.

At BD, Rajeev is leading the Informatics business and is responsible for strategy creation, roadmap execution and commercialization. Prior to BD, he has held positions of progressively greater responsibility at Bayer Healthcare and helped start and build an informatics business. Rajeev is also actively involved in driving industry standards and is currently the Treasurer & Secretary of IICC (IVD Industry Connectivity Consortium).


    

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Date Published: 22nd January 2019

Source article link: BD Diagnostic Systems


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