Editorial Article: Automated slide stainers: Supporting workflows in a hematology laboratory

Learn how automating slide staining workflows can enhance the turnaround time and standardization of hematology results

10 Nov 2022

Dr. Mamta Soni discusses automated slide stainers
Dr. Mamta Soni uses automated slide staining to support the work of her busy hematology laboratory

Hematology laboratories perform a vital service within hospitals, with diagnoses, monitoring, and treatment plans based on their output. For busy hematology laboratories, there is high pressure to provide results to clinicians promptly and with optimum staining to enable good patient care. Staining can be a laborious task, and automated processes with reliable equipment can make a great difference to the operation of a hematology laboratory and the results that they deliver for patients.

In this SelectScience® article, we speak with Dr. Mamta Soni, senior consultant and head of the Department of Hematology and Clinical Pathology, Apollo Hospitals, Chennai, India about the difference that automation makes to her laboratory and the results that they can produce.

A busy, essential clinical service

Soni’s laboratory takes care of the patient requirements for hematology, clinical pathology flow cytometry, coagulation, and related laboratory tests, and she heads this division of the hospital.

The hematology service that Soni manages is an essential part of the hospital and patient care – most patients will have at least a complete blood count (CBC) performed. Routine tests such as these form the majority of Soni’s lab’s work, supporting colleagues and patients from across the hospital departments.

In addition to this, Soni’s lab performs more complex tests for their hospital and other hospitals across the country. “We do a lot of coagulation testing. We almost do the entire panel of coagulation testing, and, for certain tests, we are the only ones who do them in this part of the country. Additionally, ours is a transplant hospital. It is a quaternary care hospital, so provides very specialized care.”

Slide staining is an integral part of the service that Soni’s laboratory provides for other teams and doctors. Patient care is directly impacted by the turnaround time for test results, and also the quality of the stain – if certain blood cells are not stained clearly or correctly, misdiagnoses or the need to rerun tests could result, further delaying care.

Automated slide processing can transform workflows

A perfect way to support a busy hospital laboratory is with the automation of some processes, supporting turnaround time and reducing staff pressures. Soni’s lab uses the Aerospray® Hematology Pro Slide Stainer / Cytocentrifuge by ELITechGroup to process their most common slides, using a Leishman stain. They use the automated slide staining processes of the equipment and have found benefits to their workflow and standard of results. “I have been using the Aerospray for at least 10 or 12 years. It has been an amazing addition to the lab from day one. I tell this to everybody who visits us because it does wonders to the lab.”

It’s made such a difference to the processing of their samples that it’s now an integral part of Soni’s laboratory. “My dependency on Aerospray is humongous. If even for a few hours, I don't have the right reagents or there’s short supply, the entire laboratory stops.”

Patient care tremendously improves, not only in terms of faster reports, but also in terms of more accurate reports.

Dr. Mamta Soni

Apollo Hospitals

Before using the Aerospray Hematology Pro Slide Stainer / Cytocentrifuge, Soni’s team was staining everything by hand – batching tests and waiting for stains to develop. An automated workflow can save both labour and the time it takes for the slides to be ready. “We have the touch screen Aerospray, which stains 12 slides in 5 minutes,” explains Soni. “Prior to using the Aerospray, we were taking around 26 minutes to stain one smear.” This was not only intensive in the use of staff time, but also produced variable results. 

The Aerospray Hematology Pro Slide Stainer / Cytocentrifuge has changed the lab’s practices in many ways, explains Soni, “It's a very standardized, uniform, and harmonized way of producing slides because the stain quality is the same on every slide. Wherever there's human involvement, there can be error.”

“It really, really helps with the turnaround time,” emphasises Soni. “I do save on man hours also because this equipment is around. That same manpower can do something else, which is more supportive and important for patient care.”

The Aerospray Hematology Pro Slide Stainer / Cytocentrifuge does not just benefit the laboratory’s processes, it also has a positive impact on the results that they deliver and, consequently, patient care across the hospital. As Soni explains, “Patients get their reports faster, and I would say the reports are more accurate because sometimes if the cells have not been stained adequately, then there can be an error or even misdiagnosis. Morphology is extremely important for hematology – a reactive lymphocyte being called as a blast because it wasn’t stained correctly, that can definitely impact patient care. So, patient care tremendously improves, not only in terms of faster reports, but also in terms of more accurate reports.”

As well as improved results and a benefit to patients, the laboratory and its staff have seen changes too. “I would say that I am processing large and variable volumes – when you're working in a hospital-attached lab, you don't have a choice, whatever you get, you have to process,” summarizes Soni. “But I am definitely processing them faster, with more smiling faces, and with more standardization.”