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Automation Reshapes Opportunities for Med Techs

Automation Reshapes Opportunities for Med Techs

John Rossheim

Penetration Varies

Automation is not distributed evenly over all diagnostic labs in the country. Labs in small, rural hospitals and in physicians’ offices have the least automation and the highest MT vacancy rates; big-city medical centers and blood centers have the most automation and less severe staff shortages.

In blood centers, “infectious disease testing and serologic testing has all been automated,” says Dr. James AuBuchon, chairman of the clinical transfusion medicine committee at the American Association of Blood Banks in Bethesda, Maryland. “I don’t anticipate big future changes, because all the automation that could be brought in has been brought in.”

Learning the Systems

Automation might change the training requirements for medical technologists.

To cut costs and reduce errors, “there’s an increasing push for simplification and standardization such that less and less training is needed” for lab workers in blood centers, AuBuchon says. “On the other hand, we will still need medical technologists and technicians, and they will need to be increasingly computer literate.”

But given the pace and breadth of technological change, med techs end up getting much of their education on the job. “There are so many different lab automation systems,” Sherer says. “It would be difficult to give MTs training for all of them.”

And the learning curve will continue to be steep. “In the next five to 15 years, there’s going to be an explosion of news tests,” Passiment says. “We won’t be able to keep up with the demand for medical technologists, even with automation.”

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