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Last updated: September 30, 2020

The Need for an Automated Lab Slide Management System

Even in today’s technology-saturated era, hospitals across North America still wrestle with the inefficient system of sorting and filing histology or pathology specimen slides manually. Depending on the size of the facility, a hospital or lab may file anywhere from hundreds of thousands to millions of these glass slides annually, a Herculean task for staff who have to sort and file each slide individually. These staff also have to retrieve archived slides for aid in testing and diagnoses. For example, a physician might track a cancer patient’s progression by comparing several months’ worth of blood samples, all of which will be stored separately according to a sequential filing system and which staff will have to manually reorganize afterward. Available on Vizient GPO Contract #CE2900 (Vizient customers call for contract pricing.managing-lab-specimen-slides

Exacerbating this nightmare is the fact that medical facilities are seeing an 8-10% increase per year in the samples they must store, which they are required to maintain for up to 20 years or more. (Click here to check out our efficient pathology and histology storage solutions to maximize your specimen storage space.)

The repetitive process of sorting and filing this increasing number of specimen slides by hand consumes valuable time and is prone to costly errors. When staff can’t locate a misfiled slide, it not only delays patient treatment, but a permanently lost slide could result in misdiagnoses and expensive lawsuits. So if you’re thinking there must be a better way: there is. Click here to view lab specimen slide sorting machine images.

Manage Lab Specimen Slides with a Histology Slide Sorting Machine

histology-specimen-tracking-systemA histology slide sorting machine solves these problems by automating the slide sorting process. This computer-controlled specimen tracking system uses database software to manage and track slide inventory. Staff can load the slide sorting machine with up to 200 slides at a time, and then walk away and let the machine do the rest. The device scans each slide, identifies it based on information on the label, sorts it into a magazine, and stores the information into its database. When a given magazine is full, staff simply transfer it to long-term storage. They can later consult the database whenever they need to locate and retrieve archived slides. The histology slide sorting machine is capable of processing around 500 slides per hour, or 4,000 slides per eight-hour shift, with minimal effort from lab staff.

Benefits of a Histology Slide Sorting Machine

Installing an automated histology slide sorting machine promises hospitals and labs an immediate ROI due to the numerous benefits it provides. These devices save hospitals massive amounts of time and money, and their convenience makes them well worth the investment.

Histology Slide Sorting Machines Save Time

pathology specimen tracking systemThe most obvious benefit of installing an automated histology slide sorting machine is the immense amount of time it saves hospitals. Consider that a mid-size medical center typically files around 150,000 slides per year, and this takes one staff member over six hours per day to file manually. This means that a trained medical professional who has invested years in education ends up spending miserable days in a windowless basement storage room doing nothing but the repetitive manual task of sorting and filing specimen slides, because someone has to do it. And for larger facilities processing millions of slides annually, there is likely a team of individuals to keep up with the workload.

The most time-consuming part of the manual process is due to human error. When sorting and filing glass specimen slides based on numbers on their labels, it’s not hard for human filers to make mistakes. Take a lab technician with dyslexia, for example, who might easily switch around a couple of numbers. Such simple errors can have disastrous consequences. When staff can’t find a specimen that needs to be retrieved, they often form search parties that can spend hours combing through archives searching for the lost file. Not only does the rest of their work pile up, but the inability to quickly retrieve a slide that may be needed to determine a patient’s diagnosis or progression results in delayed patient treatment, wasting the time of both physicians and patients.

lab slide management systemA histology slide sorting machine eliminates this wasted time, reducing upwards of six hours to a mere thirty minutes of human effort per day. Over the course of a year, that could free up over 2,000 hours for staff to spend on higher yield work. With this automated lab slide management system, all staff have to do is load slides into the machine and store magazines when they are full. This task can be done by any staff member who happens to have the time to spare. Rather than a designated (and undesirable) job, it becomes a background task. This means that the professionals who have been spending valuable time sorting slides can now devote their time to the jobs they were trained for.

In addition, eliminating the time staff spend searching for misfiled slides allows hospitals to run more efficiently as patients can be diagnosed and treated more quickly. By providing these crucial time savings, histology slide sorting machines quickly guarantee a substantial ROI.

Histology Slide Sorting Machines Save Money

histology specimen slide tracking systemNot only does this computer-controlled specimen tracking system save time, but it also saves hospitals a significant amount of money. In a manual glass slide sorting system, there is an estimated 3% human error. While this may not sound like much, consider that for a facility that files 150,000 slides per year, this adds up to misfiling a whopping 4,500 slides every year. The costs in human capital of finding a misfiled slide are estimated to be about $75, if not more, which means that a mid-size medical center is losing over $337,500 every year due to their inefficient lab slide management systems. For large hospitals, these costs are inevitably well into the millions.

Moreover, this statistic does not account for the lawsuits a hospital might face due to the consequences of misfiled slides. If a misfiled slide ends up lost for good, physicians risk making inaccurate diagnoses for patients, which could result in expensive legal suits that damage the hospital’s reputation.

Available for a mere fraction of these costs, the automated histology slide sorting machine eliminates this egregious waste of money, providing a sizable ROI in terms of finances as well as time.

Histology Slide Sorting Machines are Convenient

An added benefit of histology slide sorting machines is their convenience. As mentioned above, the requirement for hospitals to retain slides in storage for as long as 20 years, with increasing additions each year, means that storage space quickly becomes a limited commodity. With this in mind, the histology slide sorting machines are designed to occupy as little space as possible. The size of a small microwave, the device fits on a countertop and plugs into the wall. Thus, it leaves as much free storage space as possible.

These specimen slide tracking systems also integrate easily with the existing software and shelving that you have in place. The software is an open API system that can be integrated with an EMR system. And unlike some alternatives, it does not require you to replace your existing shelving. Store your sorted slides on whatever shelving best suits your needs, and the machine keeps track of the stored slides.

computer controlled pathology slide sorting machineFinally, the glass slide sorting systems are modular, which makes them a convenient choice for large hospitals which will require multiple units to meet their filing needs. Just as wasted time and money increases exponentially the more slides a facility has to manually sort and file, so does the ROI the histology slide sorting machines will immediately provide. The modular design of the systems helps to maximize this ROI for larger hospitals. A single machine is estimated to process at least 500,000 slides annually. Facilities that need to handle larger volumes of slides, into the millions for instance, can purchase a single full system unit, equipped with all the necessary software, and then add on any additional load station units they need at a reduced rate. The scalable nature of the lab slide management systems makes them an effective solution for medical facilities of all sizes.

Contact Us for Histology Slide Sorting Machines

Southwest Solutions Group® provides design and installation services for histology slide sorting machines for medical laboratories and hospitals. To learn more or to speak with a specialist, give us a call at 1-800-803-1083 or send us a message.


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