Waikato goes live with revamped path lab

Waikato Hospital in New Zealand has completed a $10 million revamp of its pathology laboratory, involving building a special containment lab for testing for infectious organisms and a new laboratory information management system (LIMS) that it says is the first of its kind in Australasia.

Waikato's lab service, which carried out more than seven million tests last year, has been gradually revamped over four years and is now one of only two physical containment level three (PC3) labs in New Zealand hospitals.

The LIMS, provided by CSC and in use in 300 laboratories in Europe, was modified to meet local requirements and follows the Waikato District Health Board’s “paperlite” principle, with most requests scanned in and results sent out electronically.

According to CSC, the LIMS is a modern, multi-site solution that supports all pathology disciplines with enhanced functionality for each specialised department.

It includes full specimen tracking across laboratories, quality control management, image and document management, complex billing, statistics and comprehensive management reporting.

It is able to intelligently manage integration with a wide variety of laboratory devices and systems external to the laboratory. To enable rapid sample processing for high-volume operations, the LIMS provides optimised automation with sophisticated expert rules for processing, validation and reporting of results.

It also includes sophisticated decision support that promotes appropriate testing, efficiency and improved clinical outcomes, by ensuring results are delivered to clinicians in a timely manner.

Waikato's PC3 lab is currently used for testing for tuberculosis but could quickly become a national testing base in an emergency, such as a bird flu or SARS outbreak.

The laboratory features a new open plan layout, allowing for a major upgrade of the main biochemistry analysers for testing blood samples.

The new part-robotic testing system has been the baby of Mark Jones, a medical lab scientist in charge of automation.

Mr Jones said the improvements in productivity and efficiency are an immediate payback. “It’s been a success from day one.”

The laboratory runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week and employs 170 staff, so testing work had to continue while the build and installation went on.

Other DHBs have been taking an interest in the new lab setup, while the National Health Board has been “tremendously supportive”, group manager for clinical and support services, Melinda Ch’ng, said.

“There’s been a real change in the way we work and in our processes,” she said. “This has been an investment in front-end technology which will take us into the future.”

Laboratory services manager Kay Stockman said there is still scope for further refinement of the information system. “This is the most advanced laboratory information system in New Zealand and will allow further technological advances when fully developed.”

The laboratory, which also has outposts at Thames, Tokoroa, Te Kuiti and Taumarunui hospitals, does specialist testing for the Midland region, works closely with the privately owned Pathlab in Hamilton doing after-hours work, and can support Auckland labs when required.

Posted in New Zealand eHealth

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