Downtime can be devastating to a clinical testing laboratory. The timely return of test results is critical for effective patient care. Any delay can hurt your lab’s reputation and prompt your customers to seek testing services elsewhere.
Unfortunately, any clinical testing laboratory using sophisticated next-generation sequencing or other genetic analysis technology will suffer downtime sooner or later.
The question is, how fast can you recover?
What Causes Downtime?
There are myriad factors that could cause your laboratory to cease operations:
- Simple operator error - anything from a sample mix-up to a PCR contamination - can cause a downstream problem that can take days or weeks to identify and correct.
- Poorly-performing vendor supplied reagents, kits, instruments, or software.
Operators Are Human; Mistakes Can and Do Happen
As it makes its way through your lab, a patient sample interacts with a wide range of operators, materials, and instrumentation. Mistakes can creep in at any point along this process, including:
- Labeling and accessioning.
- The use of particular reagents.
- The setting of instrument parameters.
- The informatics pipeline.
When an error does occur, it can take a long time and a lot of effort to determine root cause and take action to fix it. Without an appropriate reference standard, the problem becomes more complex, as the number of potential causes increases exponentially.
Here is an example: