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Labs Keep Automating Non-Essential Tasks: Kalorama Report

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© Marketwire 2013
2013-02-28 19:37:22 -

NEW YORK, NY -- (Marketwire) -- 02/28/13 -- The reduction of government reimbursement rates for laboratory tests, managed care cost-restraint measures have increased pressures for clinical labs to become more productive and cost efficient, according to Kalorama Information. The healthcare market research publisher says this is a key driver of the 10.4 billion dollar lab automation market, which includes systems for clinical labs and drug discovery labs. The quest for efficiency, however, according to Kalorama Information, is confronted with the decreasing availability of trained laboratory technologists and an expanding menu of diagnostic testing protocols. Often, increased efficiency means increasing or maintaining the timely output of test results with the same number or fewer technologists. The finding was made in Lab Automation Systems, 3rd Edition.

"The best place to automate is at a lab's pre-analytical front end," said Joe Constance, Kalorama Information analyst and author of the report. "Minimizing those non-value-added steps, including such processes as sorting tubes, decapping, centrifugation, loading analyzers."

According to Kalorama Information, labor accounts for more than 60% of the cost of producing test results. Automating a lab increases the available time for value-added steps -- the tasks that technologists perform that help make a difference in the quality of the test -- such as reviewing critical results.

The report makes clear that this does not mean labs are totally automating. When the trend toward clinical laboratory automation first began, in the early to mid 1990s, much of the talk about automation focused on automating all lab functions -- total laboratory automation (TLA). Targeted to the largest, highest-volume laboratories, TLA requires a major financial commitment -- several millions of dollars -- and the space for installing equipment. But TLA is not an affordable nor practical solution for the majority of small to mid-sized hospital and other diagnostic laboratories. More recently, the trend for most clinical labs, and for many automation system manufacturers, has been toward modular automation, which includes independent work cells or self-contained work stations, and automation for transport, handling, and pre- and post-analytical processes.

"Only a small number of labs are considered suitable for total automation, though each year that number gets larger," said Constance. "Usually, experts believe a laboratory should be performing at least 1 million to 2 million tests annually before installing a total system."

In the US, only about 7% of the laboratories are considered to be able to benefit from TLA. A 500 bed hospital or smaller, for instance, is not suitable for TLA, unless it has a large outpatient business. A typical mid-size to large lab in the US processes up to 3,000 tests per day. But with an aging population and the evolution of personalized medicine and molecular diagnostics, more labs are considering going total, according to the report.

In its report, Lab Automation Systems, 3rd Edition, Kalorama Information looks at total and partial automation trends, and provides market estimates for various segments of automation. The report profiles companies in the market and projects markets for the next five years. The report can be obtained at: : .

About Kalorama Information
Kalorama Information, a division of, supplies the latest in independent medical market research : in diagnostics, biotech, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and healthcare; as well as a full range of custom research services. We routinely assist the media with healthcare topics. Follow us on Twitter : , LinkedIn : and our blog : .

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