Today’s laboratories face many challenges, causing a disruption in workflow and ultimately a delay in the delivery of patient care – this is especially true considering challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic as brought to laboratory workflow all over the world. Never has there been so much demand for quick turnaround time and fast results.
A surge in coronavirus testing during the pandemic put a hold on more routine tests, resulting in testing delays for other common illnesses such as strep throat, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and more.1 In the case of urinalysis, the challenges are augmented as a routine urinalysis test is one of the most ordered tests by physicians,2 representing up to 30% of all samples received.3
Staffing Shortages and Retention Challenges
Additionally, urinalysis labs are hampered with staffing shortages, which are predicted to intensify. The World Health Organization reported that the world is currently short of 7.2 million health care workers and it is predicted that by the year 2035, this shortage is expected to grow to a deficit of 12.9 million health care workers.4 In 2016, the Bureau of Labor statistics anticipated needed growth of 12,000 new medical laboratory professionals per year to meet growing demand. However, academic programs currently produce just 5,000 graduates per year.5
There are several factors impacting the clinical laboratory workforce shortage. These factors include the retirement of the aging workforce, an increase in demand for laboratory service and vacancy rates that exceed the number of medical laboratory scientists and medical laboratory technician graduates.
This limitation has urinalysis operators stretched out as they are also assigned to support other disciplines like hematology and coagulation. Additionally, labs have a patient-centered care approach where there is a high commitment to achieve clinically relevant quality-results with a short turn-around time.
While the demand for lab professionals remains consistent, researchers have identified job burnout and organizational commitment as important factors affecting the turnover intentions of various health care workers including occupational therapists, nurses, and physicians.6 Burnout can occur among any individual regardless of age, sex, or their level of training.7
Manual Reviews Interrupt Workflow Further
Along with the operational challenge of adequate staffing, another hurdle that urinalysis labs face is the frequent manual review of sediments. In the urinalysis discipline, there are generally two types of manual inspection procedures: microscopic review, which is performed under a microscope, and onboard instrument review, which is done within the analyzer.
In manual microscopy, the traditional method, urine is spun, and the sediment is observed manually through a microscope. Manual microscopic sediment examination is a labor-intensive, time-consuming process that lacks standardization in laboratories8 and can take up to six times as long per sample compared to automated systems.9 Given that many of the results are negative, this interrupts workflow, requires many resources and has a high overall system cost.10
On-board instrument review can be done within the instrument and can be performed with the following particles: red blood cells, white blood cells, white blood cells clumps, bacteria, crystals, sperm, mucus, yeast, squamous epithelial cells, non-squamous epithelial cells, hyaline cast and unclassified cast.
Automated Urinalysis Analyzers Hold the Key
Conducting manual reviews creates bottlenecks of work, causes workers fatigue and impacts the lab team morale. When key performance indicators are not being met, ultimately lab personnel, managers and customers are unhappy. For this reason, impacted laboratories need reliable solutions that minimize manual review and standardize high-throughput processes.
The key to successfully processing a large daily volume of samples are high throughput analyzers with reproducible capabilities, allowing for uninterrupted delivery of vital patient services when instrument maintenance or unexpected downtime occurs.
Also, utilizing analyzers with automation, walkway and remote IT technology is a must in today’s labs so staff can focus their expertise across the entire laboratory to create seamless workflow experience. These are just some of the benefits of using automated urinalysis analyzers.
Interested in bringing automation to your lab and taking interruptions out of your urinalysis workflow? Learn more about the DxU Iris, the latest urinalysis solution.