Expansion at Barrie’s RVH features advanced lab automation
March 6, 2014
Anyone driving Ontario’s busy Highway 400 through Barrie over the past four years couldn’t help but notice the construction of the newly expanded Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH). The hospital, which serves the city of Barrie, Simcoe County and the District of Muskoka, doubled in size to one million square feet, adding 101 new inpatient beds, additional operating suites, a regional cancer centre and specialty programs not found elsewhere in the region.
One particularly noteworthy highlight of the expansion project is the $70 million we invested in leading-edge clinical technology and equipment. Among these investments, which also included the latest imaging equipment and ‘Smart OR’ technology, is a fully automated medical laboratory system.
The hospital received a big boost recently when, as part of our expansion project, RVH introduced one of the first Total Laboratory Automation (TLA) systems in Canada. The system, consisting of approximately 10 analytical lab instruments directly connected to a 65-foot-long, L-shaped, dual-track conveyor, automatically routes lab specimens to the appropriate analyzers, where the requested tests are performed, and allows technologists to monitor and verify test results more efficiently – all without samples being touched after loading.
The automated system became operational at RVH in 2011 as part of a six-stage laboratory renovation and laboratory staff, physicians and patients all enjoy significant benefits that include:
- Quality and Accuracy: Bar code information read from each vial by the automated system ensures necessary tests are conducted and test results are properly matched to the right patient
- Staff Safety: The system automatically removes rubber stoppers on specimen vials, eliminating the risk of repetitive-motion injuries to staff, who previously uncapped hundreds of vials daily
- Process Consistency: With automation, the delivery of samples to the analyzers is much more consistent and considerably less time-consuming than the previous manual approach
- Increased Capacity: Automation enables us to easily handle the increasing volume of assessments arising from the health centre’s expansion, without having to hire additional staff
- Continuous Flow: With specimens continuously moving through the system, testing workload is smoother and overall turnaround time for producing results is faster and more consistent
- Cost Avoidance: Increasing testing capacity without adding staff avoids recruiting during a market shortage of experienced Medical Laboratory Technologists
- Cost Reduction: Increased capacity is allowing referred-out testing to be brought back in-house, thereby reducing cost and turnaround time, while increasing process efficiency.
According to Dr. Russell Price, RVH’s chief of pathology and clinical director of laboratory medicine, “Of the many notable benefits of the automated system, the most significant is that its continuous flow operation provides the most efficient way of delivering the results physicians need for clinical decision-making. From a LEAN process perspective, it eliminates much non-value-added activity, allowing staff to focus on reviewing the quality of diagnostic information.”
Echoing Dr. Price’s sentiments, Barbara Lemay, RVH’s administrative director of laboratory services, adds that, “Most importantly, by streamlining and improving workflow processes, core lab automation enables us to provide lab results in a timely, and extremely safe and precise manner for the treatment of our patients.”
Janice Skot has been the President and CEO of Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre since 2004.