Dr Ravindra Patwadkar, HOD-ICICI Pathology Laboratory, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Vaidyakiya Pratishthan, Aurangabad
Biochemistry analysis constitutes more than 50 percent of work in my lab. It fluctuates seasonally, and varies from 1300 to 2200 tests per day. Biochemistry tests are of primary importance to the doctor, who is managing the patient, as well as the patient himself. Also these are the tests which form major bulk of urgent tests. Thus biochemistry analyzers become the most important equipment in a lab which can credit or discredit the director of the lab.
The following discussion is intended to make easier the decision of procurement of a biochemistry analyzer.
Here we are considering the models with high throughput (output), i.e., 400 or more tests per hour.
The characters of the equipment that matter are quality of results, workflow management, economy, service and application support, safety features, laundry, and reagent design, etc. It is always advisable to have a standby equipment of similar nature to avoid delays and complex inventory management.
Work Flow Management
The analyzer has to be a random-access analyzer, which usually most of the equipment of this class is nowadays. It has to have a continuous loading facility, which takes care of a busy standalone lab or the one which is attached to hospital, where samples arrive continuously and there is no scope for waiting for a batch to form.
There should be a barcode reader for identification of sample and test to be processed. This is of primary importance as it greatly facilitates the work in between IQC and maintenance. It makes the technician free for ancillary work like sample and reagent management, trouble shooting, decisions required for dilution of samples, re-runs, and corrective actions.
Ease of loading of reagents during analysis is a necessity, which if unavailable, can delay work if there is a need for change in reagent due to any reason.
Biochemistry analyzers are used by technicians with the help of the equipment software and hence software needs to be easy to use. It should feature ease of calibration, QC, auto-dilutions, and reflex testing. Features like auto-repeats, auto-calibration, and auto-QC can help immensely in a busy lab. Bidirectional interfacing makes life of the lab director easy by taking care of post-analytical errors.
Good software also highlights error messages, which also help the technician to have proper corrections during sample processing.
QC carries vital part in testing and a good QC support in establishing, monitoring of testing quality, as well as documenting it for accreditations and achieving QC goals.
Most of the systems available in the market provide their own reagents, making the equipment a closed system, which is not really disadvantageous to the user, if the reagent packs are suitable, stable, easy-to-use, and prevent wastages.
Cuvettes form critical part of equipment where test reaction actually takes place. Its quality directly affects test results. They need to be cleaned periodically. Sometimes they are disposable (which makes them a costly affair) or they are washed with water and various cleaning solutions (which demand continuous supply of quality water). Inefficient laundry can make an equipment continuous source of break downs.
Reliable clot detection, crash prevention, and reliable level sensing are crucial in preventing frequent and unnecessary breakdowns.
Maintenance and Service
No equipment is free from breakdowns. Peaceful working depends on efficient management and work culture of the service provider. After-sales service has to be considered while selecting a vendor.