The pressure for histology lab production to become more efficient is growing every year. Budgets are decreasing, reimbursement is changing, and finding qualified histologists is becoming more difficult as their numbers decrease. These are trends that are likely to continue for the foreseeable future.
The need for an efficient histology lab has never been greater. Here are some sensible strategies to take your lab to the next level of productivity—without losing your sanity!
Improve Your Workflow
For many histology labs, the greatest challenge to greater production is the lab’s workflow process. Histology has traditionally been slow to adopt process efficiency methods, and many labs suffer from workflow bottlenecks.
But a growing number of labs are implementing process methodologies like Lean Six Sigma to increase the speed and efficiency of their work. These labs are not only more productive, but the work has become less stressful as well, and job satisfaction can reach its highest levels.
Take Frequent Breaks
Even in the busiest lab, it’s important to keep yourself fresh. Regular short breaks have been scientifically proven to increase productivity and focus. But in the rush to get a case out the door, many histologists just push through because they don’t feel like they can sacrifice the downtime.
In the long run, the histologists that take breaks throughout the day are faster, more focused, and more equipped to do quality work. Take a short break every so often and stretch or go for a quick walk.
Reduce Repetitive Motion
Histology is a physically punishing field. Over time, histology-related repetitive motions can lead to several health issues that impact your ability to do your job, including:
- Musculoskeletal strain
- Reduced range of motion
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Cervical neck pain and lower back pain
You can reduce strain and pain by making ergonomic adjustments. Make sure your chair is adjusted to an appropriate and comfortable height in relation to the microtome and workstation. Protect your wrists and forearms from contact pressure. Use motorized microtomes, and take advantage of the motorized option, instead of manual instruments.
Get Proactive with Inventory
Running out of inventory means your lab’s production could be delayed or shut down for the day. A proactive inventory strategy can help ensure that you’ll never use the last coverslip on the shelf.
Someone should be assigned to monitor your inventory on a regular basis. Shortages should be reported and replenished in plenty of time. Whenever an order is placed, it should be communicated to the inventory manager, with an estimated delivery date. Also keep an emergency stash of supplies, just in case a delivery can’t be made on time.
Many histology labs are skeptical of automation. Can a machine possibly compete with the quality of work that a specialist can do? Automation isn’t designed to replace specialists, but to allow them to focus on those high-skill activities that only an experienced specialist can do well.
Histology automation is like a dishwasher. Why manually perform time-consuming, low-skill tasks when you can task a machine to do it? Like a dishwasher, automation in the lab lets you invest your energies into the critical, high-skill work that pathologists are counting on.
Here are some automation tools no histology lab should be without:
- Coverslipper. As one of the first automated processes in the histology lab, coverslippers have had a tremendous impact on increasing efficiency.
- Barcoding. Automated barcoding has proven to reduce patient and specimen identification errors and improve accuracy. It’s quicker than hand-labeling and relieves staff from a distracting step in the histology process.
- Microtomy. Motorized microtomes help reduce repetitive motion injury if the motorized function is used. Automating the microtome and section mounting with the Aquaro ASM™ is one way to avoid the motions required to manually operate the microtome and mount sections onto slides. This automation device improves histology laboratory efficiency and the consistency of section quality—and it integrates seamlessly with your current lab setup.
- Slide stainers. When it comes to routine slide staining, automation can provide consistent, high-quality results—allowing you to focus on special staining needs that require greater skill.
Boost Your Lab’s Productivity
The need for an efficient and productive histology lab has never been greater, but the resources to become efficient have never been more available. Implement these simple strategies to take your lab to the next level of production.
Learn more about increasing your efficiency and quality—download our whitepaper on automating microtomy.