Simplified Processing Workflow Can Help Laboratories Struggling with Labor Crisis
Even before the pandemic, laboratories faced a significant labor shortage. The U.S. Department of Labor and the US Department of Health and Human Services confirm the lack of medical and clinical laboratory technologists as cited in this recent ASCLS report, with vacancies for over 20,000 positions and growing.
While the pandemic did bring some welcome attention and appreciation for what takes place in a laboratory, the corresponding 1.1+ billion tests for COVID-19 placed more stress on an already anemic workforce. Furthermore, many academic and research facilities had come to rely upon international students and temporary workers for qualified technical staff and those people stopped coming due to travel and visa restrictions.
When it comes to bulk RNA research the lack of workers has caused a backlog of research testing which is essential to advance the development of safe and effective therapies for many conditions including life-threatening cancers. Lab directors across the country are having to be resourceful and focus, not only on recruiting to fill vacancies but also switching to testing platforms that require less “hands on time” and human intervention. One such technology is the HTG EdgeSeq® system for RNA expression analysis. The EdgeSeq technology uses only a fraction of the sample required by other systems and because it avoids the extraction process altogether, a run can be completed in just 1.5 days.
HTG EdgeSeq is a sample-sparing approach to gene expression profiling and that means that precious biobanks can be preserved and less time will be spent collecting and processing crude tissue samples.
RNA extraction has long been a necessary burden when analyzing genomic material, however, now there is a new approach that eliminates this step and reduces the corresponding, time, labor, and bias in results.
The entire extraction can be omitted when using an ultra-efficient workflow:
Performing the necessary steps (workflow) to achieve a clean set of robust RNA data from a biologic sample often requires following disparate instructions for each independent step. When using a simplified HTG EdgeSeq workflow, there is a unified process to efficiently achieve a sample in / result out scenario in just 36 hours with as little as 3.5 hours of hands-on time.
No matter how large a laboratory is, sometimes it makes sense to send out for testing to another service provider, especially when managing a backlog. Providers such as Q2 Solutions or the VERI/OTM commercial lab at HTG Molecular Diagnostics are available to receive samples and generate robust data without any additional burden on an already stressed out internal lab.
The staffing challenges facing all clinical and research laboratories are unlikely to go away anytime soon and there is no single step that will help labs achieve a balanced workload. Solutions to this problem include; creating more training programs, encouraging foreign work visas, and as detailed in this article selecting testing methods that reduce labor requirements or sending out to lab services for efficient processing.