Jill Crist is the senior product manager of scalable automation solutions at Sysmex America, with more than 20 years of laboratory experience. She earned a degree in medical laboratory technology at Penn State University and a degree in health and human services at Charter Oak State College.
Q: What is the major challenge facing clinical hematology labs, and what technological advances can help?
A: Staffing is the major challenge in clinical labs today, much like in every industry since COVID-19. Finding a trained medical technologist is difficult, not only in hematology but in all clinical areas. The key to addressing staffing issues is automation, which allows labs to get more done with fewer people.
By incorporating more automation into Sysmex’s fluorescent flow cytometry hematology analyzers, we can alleviate the burden of manual intervention from lab staff during each step. For example, the DI-60TM Automated Digital Cell Morphology analyzer can be included with our XN-9100™ and XN-3100™ hematology configurations to help deliver standardized, high-quality results. By adding middleware like our Caresphere™ Workflow Solution, negative samples can be auto validated so lab staff don't have to look at each of those samples.
Q: How should labs decide which technologies to adopt to better manage their hematology workflow and informatics?
A: A clinical lab should make purchasing decisions based on its goals. If the lab is mostly trying to deal with staffing shortages, it should adopt technology with multipurpose automation. Bigger labs with higher budgets can adopt our scalable, modular, highly automated hematology solution, the XN-9100, for total lab automation.
If you have a limited budget, your first priority should be a cell counter, like the XN-1000™ or XN-2000™. Though smaller, these instruments also have advanced and automated technology, with four different channels. These cell counters can help with patients that have platelet problems and/or abnormal cell populations. Your next priority is a slidemaker/stainer like the SP-50, then a digital cell image analysis system like the DI-60. Together, these instruments reduce manual touchpoints to lessen workloads, as well as enable standardization across operators and labs.
Q: Can you share an example of how Sysmex technology improved a lab’s efficiency?
A: One lab that comes to mind is a general hematology lab at a large hospital that used our XN-9100™ full automation system. The modularity of this system allows it to be connected with our slidemaker/stainer, DI-60 analysis software, tube sorter, middleware and even hemoglobin a1c’s, enabling total lab automation, which is what the lab wanted as their volumes increased.
By adopting this technology, the lab significantly decreased turnaround times not only for urgent testing but also for routine testing. I attended one of their lab meetings, and they couldn’t believe that their turnaround time had decreased to about 10 minutes, which is amazing for a very large hospital, earning them appreciation from the physicians in the emergency room. Hematology results are critical for clinicians to make treatment decisions, so it is rewarding to know that the increased efficiency that Sysmex helped this lab achieve made a real difference for patients.