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Questions to Ask Before Buying New Equipment

Evaluation of a new method or instrument must be completed prior to introduction into the laboratory. Timely and efficient completion of the evaluation requires a well thought out plan using clearly defined criteria.

The following information should be evaluated and found to be consistent with the laboratory’s operational goals before a method or instrument is considered for further evaluation.

How will the test be used?

  1. How often is the test being sent to a reference laboratory?
  2. Will it become a standard of medical care?
  3. Is this an individual, departmental, or general medical staff request?
  4. Which physician groups will order the test?
  5. How many tests will be ordered per week?
  6. What is an acceptable turnaround time for inpatients and outpatients?
  7. Does the test need to be available on a stat basis?
  8. How would local availability of this test improve medical practice?

Physical Requirements

  1. How much floor space is required?
  2. What are the electrical requirements? Is a UPS required? Will it be supplied?
  3. How much heat will be generated?
  4. How are temperature fluctuations tolerated?
  5. What range of relative humidity is tolerated?
  6. What is the effect of static electricity?
  7. Are there known hazards?
  8. Is ancillary equipment required? (refrigerator, centrifuge, vortex, mixer, etc)


  1. What are the storage requirements at the projected test volume?
  2. How much reagent preparation time is required?
  3. How long are the reagents stable on the instrument?
  4. How many tests can be stored on-board for each analyte?
  5. How many analytes can be stored on-board at one time?
  6. How much down time is required to replace regeants?
  7. Is recalibration or control required after each reagent lot change?
  8. How much lot to lot bias occurs for each analyte?
  9. Is "on time" delivery of the same reagent lot available?
  10. Does the instrument inform the operator of on-board inventory?
  11. Are the reagents packaged in convenient size containers or volumes?
  12. What is the reagent shelf life?

Disposal Requirements

  1. How many consumables will be discarded (sample cups, cuvettes, microplates, pipettes, tips, tubing, lamps)?
  2. Is a recycling program available?
  3. Are any of the disposables considered biohazards?


  1. How much time is required for daily, weekly, & monthly maintenance?
  2. What is the start up time from stand-by?
  3. What is the shut down time?

Sample Throughput Rate & Analysis Time

  1. How many minutes elapse from introduction of the first sample to results.?
  2. How much time elapses between subsequent samples & results?
  3. What is the maximum number of samples performed per hour?
  4. Will the system auto-dilute and automatically rerun dilutions?
  5. Does stat interrupt capability exist? If so, what is the delay?
  6. Is continuous random access testing available?
  7. Is turnaround time significantly different than the current method?
  8. How many different tests can be run on each sample in a single run?

Sample Handling

  1. What is the sample size?
  2. What is the dead space volume?
  3. Is primary tube sampling available?
  4. Is closed container sampling available?
  5. Can tubes of different size be intermixed?
  6. How many samples can be loaded at one time?
  7. What specimen types can be run: Serum, plasma, urine, CSF?
  8. Do any tests require special sampling (e.g. tubes, transportation)?


  1. What is the frequency and cost of calibration?
  2. Is calibration performed manually or automatically?
  3. Can other vendor's calibrators be used?
  4. Can the slope and intercept be changed?
  5. How many calibrations for an analyte can be stored for use?
  6. Do calibrators include the full range of claimed linearity?
  7. Does the vendor provide a 0 calibrator? If so, what is it?
  8. Can aqueous standards be used?

Quality Control

  1. How often must controls be run?
  2. How many levels of control must be run?
  3. Is on-line quality control review available?
  4. Do protocols and actual examples exist for standardized quality control ranges across multiple like analyzers?

Test menu

  1. What is the complete list?
  2. What tests are planned for release in the next quarter?
  3. Are user defined tests available?
  4. Are there matrix issues for patient samples, controls, calibrators, or proficiency test samples?
  5. Are standard methods, units, and reference ranges used?
  6. What lower limit of detection is claimed for each test?
  7. What are the linearity claims for each test?
  8. How does the analyzer report values above the upper limit or under the lower limit?


  1. Are any tests interfered with by hemoglobin, lipid, bilirubin?
  2. Do any other commonly used clinical substances (drugs) cause interference?
  3. Is carryover a problem for any test?

Performance History

  1. How reliably has the instrument performed in other users’ laboratories?
  2. How has the instrument performed in proficiency surveys?
  3. Is proficiency testing available from the usual sources?


  1. Is training offered on-site and/or at the manufacturer's facility?
  2. How many training slots are offered per instrument?
  3. Is field support available for repeated on-site training?


  1. Are self-diagnostics available? Via telecommunication?
  2. What is the repair record of analyzers in the field?
  3. What is the average down time experienced by other users?
  4. Is field service local? How many service technicians cover the territory?
  5. How much time is allowed before service responds by phone?
  6. How much time is allowed before service arrives on-site?
  7. What type of back-up is available in the event of significant down time?

Staff requirements

  1. Can operators walk away from the instrument?
  2. How many like instruments can one operator run if they are in close proximity?

Computer capability

  1. Is the interface bidirectional?
  2. Has the instrument been interfaced to our LIS at other installations?
  3. Can the analyzer be interfaced during evaluation?
  4. Is the interface provided without charge?
  5. Is bar code capability available?What are the specifics of placement?


  1. What is the direct cost per reportable (billable) result?
  2. What purchase options are available (lease, purchase, reagent rental)?
  3. What does the service contract cost? Is it necessary?
  4. What is the warranty?
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