Aspects of automation in clinical chemistry

McLelland, Alan S (1983) Aspects of automation in clinical chemistry. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Automation has been employed by laboratories to help them cope with an exponentially rising workload during the last two decades. In this thesis examine some of the objectives behind applications of automation to both the analytical and clerical processes within the laboratory. I consider, in particular the application of Critical Path Analysis to the problem of achieving a major priority of any laboratory - a fast turnround time. For the reasons outlined in Chapter 1, in modern clinical biochemistry (chemical pathology) laboratories, staff and equipment are concentrated into fixed sites with large workloads and considerable managerial problems. Control over the diverse and complex sequences of operations performed in dealing with requests for analyses requires an appreciation of the relationship of one activity to another within each sequence. Once the individual activities which contribute directly to the overall turnround time of requests have been identified, attempts can then be made to reduce the duration of elements of the critical path, in the expectation that the total turnround time will then be shortened. I suggest that Critical Path Analysis, one of a family of related management tools, may be applied to the operations within a clinical biochemistry laboratory. The elements of Critical Path Analysis are described in Chapter 1, and applied to the steps necessary to generate an electrolyte profile. In Chapter 2, Critical Path Analysis is used to study the interrelationships between activities performed during analysis of specimens. It is shown that increased sampling rates can directly affect the critical path and some of the work which has resulted in the development of faster, or more suitable analytical equipment within the author's laboratory is presented. Revised Critical Path networks are then used to demonstrate the effects of implementation of such equipment in the rate limiting areas of analysis. I conclude this Chapter by consideration of automated data acquisition and result calculation, and the amount of time which can be saved by these techniques. The 'fine tuning' of analytical results is examined in Chapter 3. Some of the problems associated with an overloaded manual reporting I system in a large clinical biochemistry laboratory are considered, and the network of activities is described. Critical Path Analysis is again used to illustrate the effects on turnround time of transferring clerical activities to a computer system, and the major gains to be made by installing computer terminals in ward areas, despite problems imposed by consideration of confidentiality at remote sites, and limitations on the data which can be printed at such sites. In Chapter 4, attention is drawn to the existence of a finite lower limit to turnround time beyond which no further improvement can be expected, no matter what developments occur in either speed of analysis or efficiency of clerical record handling. The discussion of Chapter 5 briefly considers the radical changes to the present structure of laboratories which might be necessary to further reduce turnround times in Clinical Biochemistry.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: H G Morgan
Keywords: Operations research, Chemistry
Date of Award: 1983
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1983-73844
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2019 08:56
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2019 08:56

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