Context: Laboratory automation proposes to improve the quality and efficiency of laboratory operations, and may provide a solution to the quality demands and staff shortages faced by today's clinical laboratories. Several vendors offer automation systems in the United States, with both subtle and obvious differences. Arriving at a decision to automate, and the ensuing evaluation of available products, can be time-consuming and challenging. Although considerable discussion concerning the decision to automate has been published, relatively little attention has been paid to the process of evaluating and selecting automation systems.
Objective: To outline a process for evaluating and selecting automation systems as a reference for laboratories contemplating laboratory automation.
Design: Our Clinical Chemistry Laboratory staff recently evaluated all major laboratory automation systems in the United States, with their respective chemistry and immunochemistry analyzers. Our experience is described and organized according to the selection process, the important considerations in clinical chemistry automation, decisions and implementation, and we give conclusions pertaining to this experience.
Results: Including the formation of a committee, workflow analysis, submitting a request for proposal, site visits, and making a final decision, the process of selecting chemistry automation took approximately 14 months. We outline important considerations in automation design, preanalytical processing, analyzer selection, postanalytical storage, and data management.
Conclusions: Selecting clinical chemistry laboratory automation is a complex, time-consuming process. Laboratories considering laboratory automation may benefit from the concise overview and narrative and tabular suggestions provided.