The clinical laboratory plays a vital role by delivering to healthcare professionals diagnostic test results that are used to inform critical treatment decisions. However, clinical laboratories often are challenged to meet greater testing demands while improving efficiency and delivering reliable, quality results. Laboratory diagnostic equipment designed to help meet these demands, such as the new Atellica™ Solution, are needed now more than ever.
Health and Well-being
Using Magnets and Cameras to Improve Clinical Laboratory Operations
Siemens Healthineers engineers have developed Atellica™ Solution, a clinical laboratory solution to help increase workflow efficiency and deliver patient test results faster.
Automated, Flexible and Scalable Design Reduces Processing Time
Clinical chemistry and immunoassay test volumes encompass the largest volume of tests produced in a routine clinical laboratory. The Atellica Solution is designed to minimize manual intervention and streamline patient sample processing while generating results for hundreds of these assays. These tests include clinical chemistry tests that are used to analyze urine and blood, chemical components like blood glucose, electrolytes, enzymes and hormones; and immunoassay tests that are used to aid in the diagnosis of life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, infectious disease and heart disease.
The system is well-suited for mid-volume and high-volume labs, including hospital labs and large service providers that process high sample volumes, sometimes up to thousands of samples per hour. A highly flexible system that can be adapted to growing testing needs and space constraints, the Atellica Solution is scalable up to 10 components and can be combined into more than 300 customizable configurations, including L-shaped, U-shaped, and linear formations. The system can also be connected to a laboratory automation track, such as Aptio® Automation, to further simplify workflows and increase efficiencies.
The innovative design features of the Atellica Solution include its high level of automation, including its sample management and processing, test result generation and data management. These functionalities are enabled by intelligent software, which schedules the individual movement and analysis of the samples.
Cameras Support Intelligent Sample Detection
The Atellica Solution is distinguished by a unique multi-camera vision system to help optimize the automation of sample management. When samples are loaded, the camera vision system inspects the sample rack to identify empty positions in the rack, determines that all caps have been removed, and checks the specifications of the sample containers. This facilitates more rapid and efficient sample processing without manual intervention by the operator. The camera scans each sample to register the shape and fill level of each container. Samples with a high-fill level or that are from patients from whom little blood can be taken, such as infants, children and the very ill, are then transported more slowly.
The shape of the sample containers is transmitted to the pipetting robots of the respective analyzers where the sample is aspirated for analysis. As a result, the Atellica Solution can process more than 30 different sample containers with many different dimensions, with the opportunity for more to be accommodated by “training” the camera-enabled system.
Until now, systems were limited to a few specific types of containers and, because there are so many different container types, samples often required transfer to other containers by hand, introducing additional labor, materials costs and potential error into the sample processing steps. This camera vision system is designed to provide more flexibility to the laboratory to use a broader range of sample container types to meet their needs and potentially allow for cost reductions in their sample processing area.
Bi-Directional Magnetic Transport Technology Delivers Results 10 Times Faster
The system uses proprietary bi-directional magnetic transport technology that is 10 times faster than conventional conveyor belt technology. This Atellica Magline™ Transport technology enables the system to control the processing speed and the direction of travel for samples, providing independent control and more predictable processing of each sample.
How does it work? Unlike traditional uni-directional conveyor belts that move test samples past various analysis stations at a set pace, the bi-directional technology allows the flexibility to move samples backwards and forwards and to assign a different speed and direction for each sample carrier anywhere along the transport pathway. This is accomplished through the positioning of embedded electric coils, each of which can be controlled separately, along the transport pathway that interact with magnets in the sample carriers.
To understand the value of this technology, take for example the processing of emergency “STAT” samples. In a system using a uni-directional conveyor belt, an emergency sample will either need to be routed to a special lane or testing may need to stop so that the high-priority sample can be carried by hand to the appropriate testing station. This slows down the analysis process not just for the urgent sample, but for all the samples. By contrast, with the individualized rapid transport enabled by the Atellica Magline, emergency samples are able to be processed quickly and efficiently, without the need for manual intervention or by slowing down the processing of other samples.
New Engineering Design to Produce More Tests Per Hour
Another differentiating feature of the Atellica Solution design is its ability to process more than 400 tests per hour, potentially offering the highest productivity per square meter in the industry.2 This is made possible by an innovative engineering design consisting of two concentric rings that enables the system to hold twice as many cuvettes compared to current systems. In laboratory diagnostic testing, cuvettes are moved to various stations in the analyzer for use in different stages of the testing process—for example, incubation, magnetic particle separation, washing and reading—needed for producing a patient result. The increased number of cuvettes allow for them to be more efficiently processed with less waiting time for positions to become available. This, along with other engineering changes within the system, greatly increases the analyzer’s flexibility to process more tests per hour.
The device made its public debut at last year’s AACC Annual Scientific Meeting in Philadelphia.