Dr Mukesh Agrawal, MD Pathology and IFCAP, Director- Lab Services, Vijaya Diagnostic Centre shared his in-depth insights on ‘“Are Humans & Machines at War?” Risk-Based Lab Perspective at the 4th Elets Diagnostic Leadership Summit. Edited excerpts:

Stating that there is always a tussle where humans feel very powerful when they have ammunition in the form of a machine with them, Dr Mukesh Agrawal, MD Pathology and IFCAP, Director- Lab Services, Vijaya Diagnostic Centre averred that “We should leverage technology, automation, machines, but there is a need to have human supervision always to ensure that technology produces desired quality of results.”

Dr Mukesh Agrawal said, “There are many risks involved and there are some methods of identifying them. It could be documenting methods, systematic approach, reasoning techniques, and Delphi methodology. These could be used for laboratory perspectives.

He conveyed, “To err is human.” He shared that humans shift their blame to other individuals and if some error comes out from machines, they accuse it of the same. He shared a few points about improving and incorporating machines into our lives. “In a subtle manner, we’re incorporating machines in every aspect of lab operations be it pre-analytical, analytical or postanalytical process,” he added.

Conversing about pre-analytical he talked about Patient Instruction/ DOS, Order of Draw/ Closed Collection Devices, Controlled Temp Logistics, Pneumatic system Vs. Sample Ferrying/ Drone Transportation Vs. Manual Transport for analytical he shared Sample Sorters; Track Systems; QC protocols; Calibration reminders, Asset Management; Temperature Monitoring, Monitoring of Xylene/ Formalin; Better & Safe Working atmosphere; Ergonomic Design and for post-analytical – sample Archival & retrieval; DMS.

He talked about how humans have modulated into machines through tiny baby steps of having the mitigation measures into the process and making it more effective. He added that there is a huge movement on human capital resource requirements and how earlier the hiring was on seniority but now we see there is an inclusive training program and feedback mechanism which has built-in where humans are playing a very important role to control machines.

He mentioned that there are machines to do work but we still want humans to indulge in the process. There are certain activities that humans can do. They can lead, emphasize, create and judge but machines can transact, predict, and adapt.

In concluding his presentation he said that computers can do the computational task, humans can do recognition tasks satisfactorily but when it comes to reasoning, it requires a large amount of knowledge and humans are far better than computers. He also stressed the need to have risk mitigation in place while adopting lab automation with all the risks and benefits being evaluated and avoiding the usage of shortcuts for speeding things up that can put patient safety in danger.

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