May 12, 2022
Choosing a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) for your lab is usually never a one-person decision. Key stakeholders have different requirements from a LIMS and use it for different purposes. A LIMS impacts various groups in a lab and hence should be implemented with suggestions and acceptance from all. Acknowledging the suggestions of lab personnel also provides increased visibility to a lab.
A successful lab is one where real-time data is shared with internal teams and clients. The right LIMS system attracts clients, investors, and other partners to trust the lab processes and make data-driven decisions.
Sample testing and management are among the crucial processes in a testing lab. Therefore, lab personnel and sample accession personnel involved in these processes make the most frequent and extensive use of the software. They use a LIMS to manage samples, tests, test results, and maintain a complete chain of custody of samples from accessioning to disposal. They are considered to be one of the most important stakeholders of a lab.
A LIMS system helps lab technicians save a lot of time and effort by determining sample locations, generating labels, and providing real-time processing or testing status of each sample. A LIMS provides accurate instructions for each step of the sample testing process and streamlines sample processing workflows. A LIMS records the protocol performed on each sample at any point in the sample lifecycle. A LIMS helps manage the data associated with samples. Technicians can seamlessly upload raw and unaltered data files directly into the LIMS manually or by integrating instruments with the LIMS. Subsequently, the LIMS paves the way for downstream analysis either by built-in or third-party tools. This prevents manual errors, loss of data, and supports decision-making.
A lab needs knowledgeable and trained professionals for testing and managing samples. A LIMS system not only helps in scheduling staff training but also recording the training and competence of all staff members. A well-designed LIMS system also helps lab managers determine which type of training is required for which staff member by generating a staff competency matrix.
Lab managers and supervisors need to assure the accuracy of the sample testing processes in a lab. They also need to keep a track of the turnaround time (TAT) and avoid deviations from the defined threshold time. Lab managers also assign a validator to ensure that the test results received are validated before releasing to the client. Lab managers need to ensure that every sample goes through the testing process and must track the number of samples and batches in each step of the testing process. Moreover, lab managers need to manage the lab inventory in a way that a lab never falls short of resources.
A LIMS enables supervisors to enforce processes within the lab using workflow management. A LIMS keeps a track of lab resources and prevents shortages by triggering alerts to lab managers way ahead of time. Successful sample testing requires the right equipment. A LIMS maintains a record of the available equipment, helps lab managers to schedule the calibration and maintenance of equipment in an organized way, and stores related data for future reference and audits.
Although this group does not invest much time in a LIMS, they get considerable benefits from it. Lab directors are responsible for ensuring the quality of sample testing data. As there comes a large number of samples for testing, a lab usually faces the challenge of data overload. A LIMS helps directors review large quantities of data in a simplified manner, expediting the process. A LIMS provides information on data that is ready to be reviewed or the ones which do not require any action from the lab director. This saves the time and effort of lab directors.
A lab also needs to check for data related to the instruments and reagents used in the testing process. A LIMS provides QC data to directors that helps quickly identify issues arising due to reagent contamination or instrument interference. A LIMS also provides an overview on the activities going on in the lab in real time. The director is able to see task assignments and can see the workload of each personnel, which means that a LIMS enables the task to be reassigned based on the availability of personnel.
Labs need to pass third-party audits and comply with necessary regulations. This could be achieved by adopting stringent quality assurance (QA) processes. A lab also needs to document QA/QC protocols as it is essential for audits. It becomes difficult for labs to store and manage the QC data on paper.
A LIMS system automates the data management process and also alerts when data is missing, smoothening the audit process. Furthermore, lab personnel can easily know the status and active version of each document using a LIMS. A LIMS also maintains audit trails to understand who updated the data records and when, along with the changes.
A LIMS helps research personnel similarly as it helps testing lab technicians. Research personnel process and test samples for a research study. They also need to know the sample location and affix labels on sample vials or tubes to track them with ease. Research personnel should differentiate between a research sample and a clinical sample before testing. A LIMS uniquely manages and tracks different types of samples to prevent their mix-ups. A LIMS also helps research personnel easily capture and analyze data eliminating the pain of searching data in random folders on the company's research drive. Moreover, it eliminates data silos and generates custom reports for patients, samples, studies, and kits.
Having understood the benefits of a LIMS for different groups of your lab, it is also essential for you to take suggestions from all stakeholders while implementing a new LIMS system or updating your existing LIMS. Each stakeholder benefits from a LIMS system in different ways and uses it in their own way to achieve the lab objectives. A successful lab is one that implements a LIMS for its operations and whose stakeholders make the right use of the software to contribute to the success of the lab.