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Database management for instrument comparisons.

Keeping track of information about laboratory instruments th t one may acquire can be one on continuing, year-round basis or as a crash exercise at budget preparation time.

The former approach is more thorough and less susceptible to oversights. It is important to have as much data as possible, for selecting the fight instrument is a critical laboratory task. The decision usually has to be justified by lowered operating costs, increased efficiency, or increased revenue. Pressure to reduce staffing often follows.

The many features of AshtonTate's dBase III+ database management software have made it easy for me to maintain up-to-date instrument-comparison records. The program lets users index or son data by specific fields-i.e., instrument characteristics. For example, I may be interested in seeing which instruments have hourly throughputs of 600 tests or more. The program will generate a partial printout limited to instruments satisfying that criterion.

Multiple indexing is also possible. Besides narrowing the field to instruments with a 600-test throughput or better, I may want to know which also have workload units of less than 2.5 and cost less than $100,000. A printout of that list is quickly obtained.

An instrument database of the kind our lab uses can be created in one hour on dBase Ill+ , without any need to use a programming language. The software works with IBM-compatible microcomputers. I have employed it on Compaq and ITF microcomputers.

The database printout shown in Figure I contains 16 fields. The use of a dot-matrix printer with only an 80-character width was a limiting factor; more fields could have been utilized with a 132character printer.

The fields list important criteria for chemistry analyzer selectionprice, batch size, throughput, service contract cost, and so on. Other features can be substituted or added to fit the user needs.

If a laboratory representative comes back from an industry exposition with information about several new instruments, the data can serially be added to the database through the [Append] command. With the [Modify structure] command, individual data fields can be changed and new instrument-selection criteria entered in place of criteria that may have become less important to the user.

Customized reports-bearing a title and any special headings for the fields one wishes to print-are prepared with the [Create report] command and the report generator portion of the program.

DBase III + can be run from either a hard disk, which is simpler and faster, or a dual floppy drive system (two program disks and a data disk), which also operates quite satisfactorily. The user calls up the program, sets the default drive to which the data will be transferred, and sets the caps lock on if only capital letters are desired. The [Use] command is utilized to call up the instrumentcomparison database.

We have found dBase III+ suitable for such other functions as workload recording, budget and reimbursement analysis, logging of preventive maintenance and procedural revisions, maintaining a master database of laboratory procedures, laboratory billing, establishing a file on patients with abnormal results, maintaining a continuing education file, and archiving articles.

We are currently using the instrument-comparison database to help in selection of a chemistry analyzer that will replace a sixyear-old dry-slide instrument. In our laboratory, key fields to index on include workload units (Labor cost), throughput in tests per hour, instrument price, cost per test, and whether the instrument is configured for random or batch analysis. As our study continues, we are updating the database to incorporate new instruments in the marketplace.

The software makes databases easy to create, modify, and index on one or more fields. Laboratory managers and section supervisors are thus provided with a powerful and flexible managerial tool.
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Author:Sealfon, Michael S.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Date:Sep 1, 1988
Words:610
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