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Q&A: ‘Lab of the Future’ unveiled by Dynacare in Brampton (Includes interview)

The comprehensive project, involving subject matter experts from all over the world, included the installation of new test equipment, the centralization of operations, the automation of tests and improved efficiency and outcomes for test results. As part of the upgrade, over 200,000 tests results can now be processed through the LIS/CITM/IM interface (information management and middle-ware platforms) each day.

To discover more, Digital Journal caught up with Richard Chee-A-Tow, Laboratory Director at Dynacare.

Digital Journal: How important is good laboratory design for scientists?

Richard Chee-A-Tow: Good design is crucial for successful laboratory operations. With the proper infrastructure in place, we can maximize our output and process thousands of patient samples on a daily basis, reducing the turnaround time required to report results back to physicians. For patients, this can be a potentially life-saving difference, as they can be put on a necessary treatment plan that much faster.

DJ: What are some examples of poor design?

Chee-A-Tow: A poor design is any design that does not incorporate the Lean Principles of management, which provide a framework for creating an efficient and effective organization – or follow the “5 S” principles (“Sort”, “Set In order”, “Shine”, “Standardize” and “Sustain).

From a medical laboratory perspective, poor design could be evidenced by a set-up that is over-reliant on manual processes and requires technicians to perform tasks that take them away from their core task of analyzing patient samples (which is unutilized skill). Transportation inefficiencies and over-processing of samples are also issues that can arise from poor design.

DJ: What is special about Dynacare’s upgrade to its Brampton laboratory facility?

Chee-A-Tow: The project is unique in the sense that the upgrades we completed are on a scope and scale only seen in few laboratories worldwide, particularly for a medical laboratory environment – this was also the biggest implementation done by our vendor, Roche, in North America. We were able to achieve improved efficiencies of and outcomes for test results, by installing new test equipment, centralizing operations and automating several of our tests and we were able to achieve higher throughput and faster turnaround time while maintaining exceptional test quality.

DJ: What is meant by the “lab of the future”?

Chee-A-Tow: We refer to the upgrades at our Brampton laboratory as the “Lab of the future” not only because we automated a series of our processes and installed state-of-the-art equipment – but also because we are now equipped to handle growing demand for test results today and tomorrow. The “lab of the future” is a comprehensive vision that incorporates automation, the lean principles of management, the highest quality testing, optimal utilization of skills and an alignment of people and processes.

DJ: How was the design approach undertaken?

Chee-A-Tow: As one of the largest installations of its kind in North America, the project required the engagement of a global implementation team. We sought input from subject matter experts from around the world to help us design the project, and support from key industry vendors, Roche and Data Innovations, to help us facilitate the upgrades. A team of analysts was engaged to ensure capacity capabilities were maximized.

We reviewed best in class worldwide global healthcare solutions (at hospitals and other laboratories) to ensure we incorporated the lessons learned to best build our design. Our supply chain and scientific teams engaged vendors to conduct equipment capabilities and comparisons, and we engaged internal customers to ensure skill optimization.

Most importantly, when designing the project, we incorporated the “voice of the customer” to ensure we maintain high standards of quality with the expanded menu. This refers to our patient’s expectations, preferences and aversions when it comes to their health and wellness – and reflects our commitment to put their interests first.

DJ: What types of technology were used for the design?

Chee-A-Tow: A strong partnership with vendors and internal partners was leveraged to build a revolutionary design for a medical laboratory, and we used leading design testing technology to accomplish it. We pushed ourselves to think outside the box and use some of the best techniques for compressor design and installation to support the installation.
It’s important to understand that from a facilities perspective, the lab upgrade is a new-build, as it required a large amount of infrastructure to be in place to support it. The HVAC element required to cool the equipment is 756,000 BTU – all of which had to be installed in advance. From a systems perspective, we laid 35,000 square feet of data cable, and developed over 4,000 lines of program code (AS400: 1300+, .NET: 3000+).

DJ: How can lab design be built and automated?

Chee-A-Tow: Lab automation begins with having a clear vision for what success looks like and engaging stakeholders throughout the process – from the inception to implementation. A robust project plan is required to get the project in motion, led by a steering committee for oversight. Strong vendor support and internal partnerships ensure that the project can be built. Ultimately, automation through lab design allows our technicians the ability to be able to focus more of their time on analyzing patient samples – instead of more laborious tasks, such as preparing and loading samples into the equipment.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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