Biomedical laboratories need to be able to deal with a high throughput of samples while reliably documenting each step in the testing process.
The fact that it takes so long for laboratories to analyze samples is in no small part due to all the cumbersome paperwork as each sample must be accompanied by meticulous records.
At the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering (IBMT; St. Ingbert, Germany) scientists are developing a fully automated approach to testing, with a particular emphasis on automating the documenting of samples. The main aim is to enable sample data to be processed automatically. A tiny microchip is embedded in the plastic of the test tube and used to store all relevant information, such as when and where a sample is from and the patient's name. In the past, test tubes would be written on by hand; more recently, the data has been stored in a barcode for easy scanning.
When the test tube is placed into an analyzer, the equipment can record details on the embedded chip of exactly what went on in the analysis. This means the test tube itself carries the sample's entire history, with no need for technicians to write up a laborious report including the patient's details, the results of the analysis and the testing methods employed. Scientists at IBMT are working together with Soventec GmbH (Dannewerk, Germany) to develop the LabOS laboratory management system. Working with LabOS, as soon as a test tube is placed in a reader, a screen displays data on the sample's history and also what the next steps are without the need for any paperwork.
Daniel Schmitt, Dipl. Phys., a project leader for the IBMT, said, "Usually, samples are accompanied by a report slip. Alternatively, the laboratory will know to expect a sample when it receives an e-mail containing all the necessary information. With test tube chips, the sample and the information are inseparably linked, and there is no way for information to go astray." For some time now, the project partners have been able to demonstrate just how well all this technology works together thanks to a mobile laboratory. Housed in a truck that is traveling all over South Africa, it is mainly working to diagnose AIDS and tuberculosis. The scientists showed the effectiveness of their concept at the MEDTEC Europe trade fair in Stuttgart, Germany from March 13 to 15, 2012.
Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering