Navigating a new laboratory landscape

Adapting to change—a future-focused approach

As healthcare systems adjust to unprecedented circumstances, prioritizing flexibility could ensure long-term sustainability for laboratories.


Today’s laboratories today face rising and unpredictable demand, shrinking resources and concerns around cost. While these challenges are not new, efforts to address them have been accelerated by the ongoing global pandemic. Making the right investments in infrastructure and new technologies can help labs manage the additional workload and answer the underlying challenges of healthcare beyond COVID-19.


Past the point of no return


Diagnostic testing has skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic. However, viewing the need for increased capacity as temporary could be a costly mistake. In reality, the volume and variety of testing is likely to remain high as governments, communities and individuals recognize the importance of diagnostics. 

Moreover, routine testing is expected to rise as social restrictions are relaxed and COVID-19 testing subsides. A recent study around the short-term impact of the pandemic found that routine follow-up of patients with communicable and non-communicable diseases decreased significantly during lockdown periods1. This widespread postponement of necessary testing creates higher demand further down the road.


Uncovering underlying challenges


The laboratory ecosystem is complex. Changes to one aspect often have a knock-on effect in other areas—as has been the case with increasing capacity. To cope with a sudden spike in demand, many labs have adopted a 24-hour working model and begun running tests on systems from outside organizations. 

At one lab, leveraging infrastructure from the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) and the National Tuberculosis Elimination Programme (NTEP) had the potential to double capacity.2 However, with an industry-wide shortage of trained personnel, such a rapid expansion could lead to technicians’ workloads becoming unsustainable—compromising the quality of results. 

Balancing limited staff resources is not the only challenge associated with growing capacity. A number of logistic hurdles can lead to inefficiencies. This includes procurement of corresponding commodities for testing and scaling-up sample collection and transportation efforts. Clearly, a long-term solution is needed.

Woman in laboratory

Answers for sustainability


To meet growing demands and remain profitable, lab leaders are turning to automation, consolidation, integration and standardization for answers. Today’s industry-leading platforms allow labs to run a wide variety of tests in a single workflow, across a range of throughputs and with virtually no manual touchpoints. The result—faster turnaround, minimal handling errors, simplified training, and increased efficiency and output.

Performance can be further enhanced by improving capabilities around data analytics. Integrating technologies that help labs to better understand their instrument performance and trend data reveals new opportunities to optimize operations.


Focus on flexibility


The role of the lab is changing. As global health systems transform, a greater emphasis on pandemic preparedness demands more agility from labs. Historically, lab management has focused on improving and sustaining the quality of results for improved clinical outcomes.3 With unpredictability at an all-time high, diagnostic flexibility is now a top priority. 

High throughput alone will not be sufficient going forward. Labs need to elevate the value they provide in order to stay ahead. The ability to incorporate lab developed tests (LDTs) at high volume, increase capacity on short notice, and run a wide variety of assays with minimal technician interaction will allow labs to react accordingly as demands change. Investing in flexibility can help ensure sustainability.   

Woman in laboratory

Putting people first


“The clinical laboratory community has faced unprecedented challenges in responding to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Long-held assumptions about laboratory management have been reconsidered in light of these new circumstances.” 4


People are a labs most precious resource. Having witnessed the impact of a public health emergency on frontline healthcare workers first-hand, lab management will need new ways to protect their staff. 

Efficiency gains are key to improving quality of work-life. Integrating workflow management solutions, for example, enables labs to optimize staff allocation and maintain output without overwhelming workers. The risk of repetitive motion injuries and exposure to dangerous chemicals can be mitigated by high levels of automation. And, with less hands-on time, skilled technicians are free to focus on more value-adding work. This value-focused approach can be enhanced by simplifying daily tasks and training requirements through standardized workflows. 


From insights to actions


Many of the challenges labs face—industry consolidation, scarce resources, and increasing test volumes—have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. These concerns can no longer be ignored. While change is a challenge in itself, changes that make labs more flexible are necessary for long-term success.

Roche's proven molecular concept brings together testing in a way that enables laboratories to elevate organizational value. Now, a compact new addition to the portfolio makes automation, consolidation, integration and standardization more accessible than ever before.