Historically, diagnostic advances have not been greeted with the same level of excitement as therapeutic breakthroughs, but that decades-old view of the discipline is changing fast. Diagnostics is a field going through a digital revolution that’s transforming what it can do, how flexible it can be, and how quickly it can identify illness. These same advances are making it possible to support the development of drugs, anticipate illness before the onset of symptoms, take cutting-edge diagnostics to the field, increase testing output despite paucity of resources, and make it possible to diagnose under what would normally be considered highly adverse conditions.

It’s in the last two areas that dry slide technology from Ortho Clinical Diagnostics offerings are having a significant impact.

The Problem: Major Health Partners, the Shelbyville, Indiana hospital system, had used existing wet chemistry technology for diagnostic tests, which requires a dedicated water system and filtration to supply the liquid needed to run each test. The limitations of relying on water-based technology came into stark focus Sunday, July 16, 2016. That day, a major fire at a local industrial plant and warehouse diverted much of the municipal water supply as fire companies fought to contain the blaze.

The Challenge: The immediate responsibility of the Major Health Partners clinical lab was to continue operating in order to provide life-saving test results, despite the restricted availability of water. To ensure that the flow of patient tests remained uninterrupted, the lab staff responded to its water crisis by manually pouring a supply of distilled water into the diagnostic lab’s filtration and purification system.

However, this short-term solution meant the lab had to perform significantly fewer tests to conserve water for emergency patients only. Over the course of the next 48 hours, all water supplied by the municipality was contaminated and required boiling, forcing the diagnostic lab to continue using distilled water for another 24 hours. “My manager and I realized that in order to stay effective and fully operational, you want your instruments up and running as much as possible—physicians and their patients depend on it,” said Keith Keppel, Assistant Lab Manager at Major Health Partners. “Now, it’s been demonstrated to us that scarcity of water means our diagnostic chemistry system goes down. We can’t let that happen.”

The Product: More than 70% of all medical decisions are made based on clinical laboratory results1, and yet labs are pressed continually to lower costs and do more with less—ramping up the flow of samples for analysis significantly and doing so without regard for the increased resources normally required for increased testing output. Labs need technologies that allow them to perform multiple tests simultaneously, sometimes under conditions that might normally prevent successful diagnosis.

A surprisingly frequent, but often underappreciated challenge in diagnostic testing is limited access to water in some areas and in special circumstances. Scientists at diagnostics manufacturer, Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, long-recognized this challenge and invented its unique “dry technology” products and accompanying enabling technologies, engineered to deliver consistently accurate results with predictable costs, no matter the circumstances.

The Solution: Shortly after this crisis, Major Health Partners committed to using the most advanced technology available to eliminate reliance on wet chemistry in its laboratory testing facility. “We were aware that Ortho offered VITRO® Systems, which used the dry MicroSlide technology. We were interested in what it could do after what we had been through that summer. After visiting Ortho’s R&D facility in Rochester and seeing VITROS Systems firsthand, we decided to go with Ortho.”

The Results: After transitioning its lab to Ortho’s VITROS® 5600 platform, Major Health Partners reduced cost and staff time needed to work with reagents; unlike wet chemistry testing, dry slide technology does not require liquid reagents that can degrade and demand more frequent calibration and quality control of the system.

“Dry slide technology gives us the opportunity to generate more tests,” says Keppel. “We also found that working with dry slide is faster. We’ve been able to cut three and half to five minutes off test turnaround times.”

Now that they have made the move to dry slide, Major Health Partners diagnostic lab no longer requires costly, dedicated water systems. “A dedicated water system, while not taking up a huge footprint, nevertheless needs space. We’re able to use that newfound space for other uses.”

The dry slide system also provided an important environmental benefit. Water is a non-renewable resource, and with traditional chemistry technology, a hospital loses a lot of water—difficult at a time when good, clean water is becoming more of a scarce resource. In addition, one of the more expensive aspects of traditional diagnostic chemistry is the processing and creating of usable water. Dry slide technology eliminates that problem, with the added benefit of reduced costs and increased ability to enable laboratory professionals to focus on what matters most—running more life-saving tests as quickly, efficiently, and accurately as possible.

Finally, this increases dependability and self-reliance for the lab, allowing diagnostic tests to continue, even when difficulties arise. “We had an event recently in which a water main broke—our toilets and drinking fountains did not function, but we were able to turn out chemistry testing without interruption,” said Keppel. “The administrator and chief of nursing asked if we’d been impacted and we told them, ‘no!’”

Resources:

1 Rohr et al. “The Value of In Vitro Diagnostic Testing in Medical Practice: A Status Report.” PLoS One. 2016; 11(3).

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