Workflow and maintenance characteristics of five automated laboratory instruments for the diagnosis of sexually transmitted infections.
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The choice of a suitable automated system for a diagnostic laboratory depends on various factors. Comparative workflow studies provide quantifiable and objective metrics to determine hands-on time during specimen handling and processing, reagent preparation, return visits and maintenance, and test turnaround time and throughput. Using objective time study techniques, workflow characteristics for processing 96 and 192 tests were determined on m2000 RealTime (Abbott Molecular), Viper XTR (Becton Dickinson), cobas 4800 (Roche Molecular Diagnostics), Tigris (Hologic Gen-Probe), and Panther (Hologic Gen-Probe) platforms using second-generation assays for Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae. A combination of operational and maintenance steps requiring manual labor showed that Panther had the shortest overall hands-on times and Viper XTR the longest. Both Panther and Tigris showed greater efficiency whether 96 or 192 tests were processed. Viper XTR and Panther had the shortest times to results and m2000 RealTime the longest. Sample preparation and loading time was the shortest for Panther and longest for cobas 4800. Mandatory return visits were required only for m2000 RealTime and cobas 4800 when 96 tests were processed, and both required substantially more hands-on time than the other systems due to increased numbers of return visits when 192 tests were processed. These results show that there are substantial differences in the amount of labor required to operate each system. Assay performance, instrumentation, testing capacity, workflow, maintenance, and reagent costs should be considered in choosing a system.
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