Digital transformation has altered how various industries work and has improved their efficiency and productivity. Many modern laboratories have also adopted digital methods in recent years to achieve success. Laboratories store and provide a rich and varied source of data that is of significant importance. The security and interoperability of such data are paramount and digital transformation has made it much easier than the traditional ways of data management. It has helped laboratories in data monitoring, QC monitoring, real-time data analysis and sharing, along with maintaining data security.
What is Digital Transformation for a Laboratory?
Digital transformation aids modern laboratories to make a switch from paper-based, manual processes to new and quick technologies that can help achieve more reliable and successful results. With digital services such as cloud computing, laboratory managers can access and review data from anywhere even when they are not present in the laboratory. Laboratory managers must map out the core areas of improvement in a laboratory and the ones where challenges lie. The improvement might demand the replacement of old processes with new or updated methods and systems. This may include replacing manual processes with automated systems, setting up new, high-precision equipment, improving collaboration by eliminating disparate, disconnected data silos across an organization, and enabling quick data access electronically for fast decision-making. Appropriate planning of time, cost, resources, and types of solutions can help you decide on the best solution to solve your laboratory issues. Modern laboratories now rely on a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) to smoothly function with new practices and processes that come with the rapidly changing technology.
How Can a LIMS Help?
A LIMS can make a significant contribution to the digital transformation of your laboratory. The flow of information and data throughout laboratories raises concern for data compatibility, accessibility, and most importantly data security. Maintaining laboratory data in spreadsheets makes it difficult to retrieve when needed and it becomes a pain to search for the required data during audits. Different spreadsheets may have the same sample information where it becomes difficult to find the correct record due to redundancy. A LIMS minimizes data silos by consolidating all your laboratory data into a centralized system, thus maintaining data integrity and minimizing data redundancy. It also formats and standardizes any new information added to the system, improving data quality. A LIMS also facilitates data interoperability by integration with analytical instruments and software. Laboratories now understand the value of integrating a LIMS with enterprise systems, such as an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, billing software, to improve business processes, data flow, and reporting, thus improving the overall operational quality and efficiency.
A LIMS has the capability to work with different operating systems and it also supports various computer applications, such as MS Excel. The easy-to-use interface allows laboratory staff to perform effectively with minimal training, eventually making the process time-efficient. The automated workflow offered by a LIMS helps the laboratory staff to minimize data entry errors and generate accurate results efficiently in a timely manner. A LIMS is not only capable of processing or storing large amounts of data but also allows quick access to data which reduces the time spent on searching through old records for required information. All the required data is stored in a common database which can be easily and quickly retrieved when needed. A LIMS enhances the productivity of a laboratory along with proper cost and time management. It helps in driving a quick research process along with yielding more accurate results as compared to traditional methods. A LIMS can also record the complete history of activities performed in a laboratory through its algorithms. Thus, maintaining the security of stored or transferred data becomes much easier with a LIMS.
Few common digital benefits offered by a LIMS include:
- Effective management and tracking of samples and test results.
- Generation of custom test reports or Certificates of Analysis (CoA).
- Prevention of transcription errors by integration with analytical instruments which allow automatic data transfer.
- Maintenance of customer details, staff training records, laboratory instruments and their calibration schedules.
- Prevention of unauthorized access to important documents such as Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
- Generation of invoices and integration with various payment portals.
Let’s look at some industry-specific examples to understand this better.
Some of the ways how a LIMS helps different types of laboratories are as follows:
- Automates workflows and enforces the SOPs through the laboratory for consistent and reliable methods adoption.
- Integrates with laboratory equipment, such as particle counters, GC systems, to facilitate automatic data transfer in agriculture laboratories.
- Help manage patient data and patient consent in biobanks and clinical research environments.
- Delivers COVID-19 test reports to patients at their registered email addresses and mobile numbers or via a secure patient portal, enabling quick decision-making for treatment and preventing further spread of the disease.
- Performs calculations on datasets, interfaces with & interrogates data, and reviews current and past data, thereby enabling data compilation for informed decision making.
- Integrates analytical data with tracking systems, enabling testing laboratories to follow regulatory requirements with ease.
- Enables automatic recording of analytical data by integrating with analytical instruments, such as pH meters and balances, in a food testing laboratory.
Modern laboratories are expected to generate quick and accurate results with the increasing demand for testing. The data is getting more complex with emerging technologies and requires continuous tracking and management. This poses a challenge for laboratories that are still operating manually. With innovative digital technologies in place, businesses are focusing to achieve more in less time.
A LIMS has helped many laboratories to get rid of paper-based systems by capturing the data in a digital format. The data validation capability of a LIMS helps improve the overall data quality in a laboratory. Automated workflows not only eliminate data-entry errors but also saves a lot of time. You can also configure a LIMS according to your laboratory requirements. The complete traceability provided by a LIMS solution also helps in achieving regulatory compliance. Going digital with a LIMS and avoiding the hassle of technical infrastructure is always a judicious decision for the success of your laboratory.