November 19, 2018
So, what is a LIMS? A LIMS or Laboratory Information Management System is a software solution to address the data management, automation, and regulatory challenges of laboratories across the globe. As the name suggests, a LIMS is used to effectively manage laboratory samples and the associated data, thus standardizing operations by maintaining workflows, tests, and reporting procedures. With the growing needs of laboratories, the traditional LIMS too has evolved, with the system being able to do much more than just tracking samples.
The earliest LIMS was developed as a system to keep a track of the movement of samples in a laboratory. Since then, LIMS has expanded to be an integrated solution for all laboratory data management needs including maintaining sample records, tracking of tests performed, managing customer services and managing invoices for the services rendered. This had led to the LIMS slowly replacing other laboratory data management solutions such as ELN (Electronic Laboratory Notebooks), patient portals, barcode management systems, accounting software, etc. Another key feature that most modern LIMS have implemented is a configuration tool. The tool makes the system versatile to meet your workflow requirements and match the terminology you use in your laboratory, eliminating the need for costly customization.
What is the role of a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS)?
The most important role that a LIMS plays in a laboratory is to increase the operational efficiency of the laboratory by automating and streamlining the workflows, eliminate the need of maintaining information manually and meeting regulatory guidelines. A good LIMS facilitates both easy record keeping and reporting, thus eliminating the risks of human errors and improving the overall turn around time.
How does a LIMS work?
Briefly, a LIMS covers the journey of a sample from its induction into a laboratory till the end of its life cycle, including the stages of Sample Storage, Testing, Reporting and Archiving. As a sample is introduced into a lab, the LIMS operation starts by accessioning the sample on to the system and assigning it with a particular identification number. As and when the samples moves through the laboratory, the related information can then be updated in a LIMS to maintain the audit trail.
Uses of LIMS
As mentioned above, a good LIMS balances both record keeping as well as report generation. Some of the common uses of a LIMS include:
1. Sample registration and management that covers maintaining all information related to a sample. When the sample moves from one unit of the laboratory to another, the information can be updated to ensure proper tracking of the sample's life cycle.
2. Test Registration and Management that ensures all tests conducted in the laboratory are configured on the LIMS and enables easy entry of the results, tracking approval/validation of results and generation of reports.
3. A LIMS can be used to maintaining an archive of older records and keeping a track of the laboratory proceedings in a chronological manner
Benefits of using a LIMS
A LIMS offers a multitude of benefits in terms of laboratory data management. Some of the key functional benefits of a LIMS are:
1. Sample management wherein a user can efficiently track samples through the laboratory and allocate storage locations that mimic the sample storage hierarchy.
2. Workflow automation that leads to a decrease in possible human errors by eliminating manual entry of data.
3. Configurable user-interface to meet the unique requirements of different laboratories and mirror their existing workflows.
4. Secure and restricted access to the data leading to better data privacy and protection.
5. Easy data backup and data mining options, resolving data accessibility issues.
6. User-role based access distribution to mirror the real-time laboratory personnel hierarchy.
7. Ease of reporting, wherein an authorized user can quickly generate reports pertaining to (a) the various tests performed, and (b) data required for auditing and quick analysis (for example, the total number of samples logged during a particular period or from a particular region).
8. Streamlined billing process by generating invoices and integrating with the various payment portals.
9. Easy regulatory compliance including HIPAA, 21 CFR Part 11, ISO/IEC 17025:2017, ISO 15189, Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA), Good Laboratory Practice (GLP), and Good Automated Manufacturing Practice (GAMP)
The features of a good LIMS
1. Easy configuration to ensure compatibility with customer requirements and adaptability to the evolving laboratory needs.
2. Seamless tracking of a sample's lifecycle, right from sample accessioning, storage, sample tests, to permanent disposal of samples.
3. A user-friendly interface with access to the various modules and functionality based on the access privileges.
4. Easy exchange of data between a LIMS and other instruments via flexible integration facility.
There are various industries that use a LIMS to manage their laboratory data. Some of the major industries include
a. Clinical Laboratories -manage patient data and specimen information, maintain various test records and test results, generate reports, and automate laboratory workflows.
b. Biobanks and Biorepositories -track biological samples and manage their storage locations for easy retrieval of the samples and their associated data.
c. Environmental Testing Laboratories-increase laboratory efficiency by automating testing workflows, managing environmental samples such as soil, water, air, etc., and following regulatory compliance such as NELAC.
d. Food and Beverage Testing Laboratories-manage food and beverage samples, maintain test records, generate reports, and automate testing workflows.
For more information on the industries that use LIMS, please visit: https://cloudlims.com/industries/lims-solutions.html
Implementing a LIMS improves the overall operational efficiency of a laboratory. A LIMS saves time otherwise spent on manual data logging and maintenance, thus offering an efficient data management solution. This leads to a decrease in human-error and a more accurate information system to support various decisions. It also comes with an audit trail, that automatically reduces the time taken for manual auditing. Additionally, a LIMS is most useful when dealing with voluminous data that requires batch analysis and repetitive daily operations. It also covers various compliance standards, helping laboratories maintain their regulatory, safety and privacy standards.
Read LIMS Vs. LIS to understand the key differences in the products.