Special to The Explorer
A specimen automation system developed by Oro Valley-based Ventana Medical Systems has allowed a South Carolina laboratory to raise its level of information management and patient safety.
The histology laboratory at Self Regional Healthcare is the only such facility in South Carolina using Ventana's VANTAGE system, which allows lab professionals to barcode, track and re-confirm identity of each lab specimen. It is part of an effort "to provide the best patient safety and ensure results get to patients as quickly as possible," a release said.
Turnaround of information is accelerated, and patients are assured their specimen has been handled "with the utmost care along every step in the process," according to Dr. John Sundermann, a pathologist with Carolina Pathology Associates who practices at Self Regional.
"Along with the other pathologists here at Self Regional, I examine stained sections of tissue using a microscope to determine if cancer or other types of disease is present," Sundermann said. "After the patient's specimen arrives from surgery, the process of transforming it into a section of tissue involves multiple steps in which the patient's tissue is transferred several different times to different media. It is also handled by many different team members from our lab."
Barcoding technology is nothing new to hospitals, Sundermann said. For example, blood samples are placed in barcoded vials, and many hospitals use barcoded wrist bands to ensure patients are given the right medication.
"Now we are bringing this same type of patient safety to the anatomic pathology laboratory," the physician said.
When a specimen arrives at the laboratory, information about the patient is entered into a computer only once. Thereafter it is electronically transferred throughout the process.
The histology laboratory staff at Self Regional began the VANTAGE project by working with Ventana to employ so-called "lean" principles for maximized workflow and efficiency. Lean has been used in manufacturing and service industries as a systematic method to improve processes and ensure accuracy. With Self Regional's anatomic processes maximized, the VANTAGE technology was put to work.
The reduction of data entry points greatly reduces the chance for error, the release said. Through barcode technology, VANTAGE also provides an electronic "double check" that the proper patient tissue is placed on the proper slide, and allows the staff to pinpoint exactly where each patient's tissue is at any moment.
"VANTAGE is without a doubt the biggest change in anatomical pathology in more than 50 years," noted Kathy D. Hill, supervisor of the medical center's histology lab. "It's groundbreaking. To have it here makes us not only a leaner and safer lab, but the leader in South Carolina. Adding VANTAGE demonstrates our hospital's commitment to our laboratory services, allowing us to continue Self Regional's mission of improving healthcare by bringing advanced services closer to home."