It is very well known that standardized techniques and automation enhances patient safety by reducing human error. Advantages of automation are many in any laboratory. In blood banks, automation helps to achieve safe collection of blood from a donor and safe and timely blood transfusion to the patient. The process of blood donation is standardized by using automatic electronic blood collection monitor (BCM) which help in good quality blood collection suitable for blood component preparation. BCM provides smooth and homogenous mixing of blood with anticoagulant when the blood is being collected in the bag. It displays the time taken and volume of blood collected, there is also provision of automated clamping at the end of collection. Thus, there is no risk of excess blood collection. There are audio/visual alarms to monitor collection process. If the flow is less than 15 ml/min instead of 50 to 70 ml/min it warns the phlebotomist. It is a portable equipment which can be easily carried in the blood donation camps.
Automated blood donation (apheresis) is by which certain blood components are collected as per the need of the patient by using cell separator machine. Products such as platelets, leukocytes, RBC (two units), neocytes, peripheral blood stem cells, and plasma can be collected from the donor. The cell separator is used for therapeutic purpose also. Machine ensures donor safety all the time during the operation. All cell separators use sterilized pre- packed disposable sets for blood collection. The advantages of these machines are effective dose of component is given to the patient; there is a reduced multiple donor exposure thus reducing risk of alloimmunization and transfusion transmitted infections; there is purity and quality of the product collected; and these monitors keep record of time of each donation.
In the blood component laboratory, manual blood component processing is a labor-intensive process involving many operations such as weighing, centrifugation, component separation, sealing etc. Automated and semi-automated equipment reduce manual operations and are used for separation of plasma, red blood cells (RBC), platelets, with the advantage of leuco-reduced products. In blood testing laboratories, with automated instrument there is significant improvement in workflow and efficiency, the results are more reproducible, operational errors are reduced, and the staff has enough time to handle more specialized tests and resolve discrepancies. Automated equipment also provide the level of quality assurance required by regulatory standards.
In blood centers having heavy workload there is a risk of errors in manual operations which compromises blood safety. Reports of mistaken identification of recipients and of the units of blood components to transfuse, are being reported. Often it is difficult to have a skilled staff to avoid mistakes. Automation eliminates manual errors, reduces manpower requirements, and has uniform performance. Every unit collected should have complete traceability, right from collection to issue of blood. Barcode system has been of immense use for traceability. Besides barcode system another technical innovation is radio frequency identification device (RFID). It is a system that allows automatic scanning of bulk quantities of blood bags and products, real time tracking of their location, control of inventory and advanced planning for supplies, and ensures a restricted access to blood and other inventories by authorized personnel only. Thus, it helps in reduction of human errors by reducing manual steps, improved blood stock management, simplified testing of donor/patients’ samples on automatic equipment, improved blood unit identification and distribution, information can be sent directly to the network, and saves time.
Automation provides a huge amount of analysis within a short time period, and the method is very standardized and traceable. It almost completely rules out handling and typing errors when results are uploaded into the laboratory information system, and the bidirectional data transfer is invaluable. Minimum staff is required to operate and maintain it. With a high turnover and shrinking pool of staff, it enables hospitals to standardize and simplify both technique and training.