Enhancing Laboratory Efficiency Using Cost Effective LIMS for Biobanks and Testing Laboratories

Enhancing Laboratory Efficiency Using Cost Effective LIMS for Biobanks and Testing Laboratories

March 09, 2017

Modern day labs are under constant pressure to reduce expenses, improvise lab efficiency and constantly enhance the quality of results. To begin with, it is important to understand what lab efficiency exactly means. In simple terms, lab efficiency is all about how a lab effectively manages time and available resources to improvise data quality, eliminate manual errors, improve laboratory results turnaround time, and streamline lab operations. Many labs are interested in improvising their lab efficiency; however, are not keen to invest in cost-intensive Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) to manage their laboratory data. They continue to use paper based systems, spreadsheets, customized in-house developed data management tools, or a combination of these to manage their data. Such labs do not realize the adverse effects of using these outdated data management practices on their lab efficiency.

This white paper underlines the challenges faced by biobanks, clinical research, and diagnostic labs and how switching to a cost-effective cloud based LIMS can help in improving lab efficiency by automating various lab processes.

To learn more, please visit the white paper section.

Economics and Sustainability in Biobanking - Dr. Jim Vaught

Economics and Sustainability in Biobanking - Dr. Jim Vaught

February 21, 2017

Biobanks come in many different sizes and serve various important purposes, including supporting basic, epidemiologic and clinical research. Biobanks are recognized as critical resources in the advancement of personalized or precision medicine.

Over the past few years, researchers engaged in biobanking have become increasingly aware of the need to introduce business planning practices into the development and operation of their facilities. They have generally been considered to be support services that are centrally funded by the institution or department in which they are located. Biobanking is not inherently a good “business,” and depending on its mission can be a very expensive proposition. During recent years, economic pressures and reductions in public funding have forced biobankers to consider a more professional approach to business planning. The economics and sustainability of biobanks have become hot topics at the International Society for Biological & Environmental Repositories (ISBER) annual meetings. In the context of biobanking, sustainability is the term used to address challenges in meeting long-term funding needs and other support functions in the face of uncertain public and private support.

As I mentioned above, biobanks are critical resources, but not good business propositions, although for-profit tissue brokers do exist. Many published studies have confirmed that to remain viable in the long term, academic and government biobanks require a combination of public funding, and if allowed, some form of partial cost recovery. There are a few instances of academic biobanks managing to be financially successful through collaboration with pharmaceutical and biotech companies. However, the general consensus is that biobanks will continue to need at least partial support from government grants and contracts (e.g. the NIH in the US), or, for example, from foundations devoted to supporting biobanks to study rare diseases.

As the Editor-in-Chief of Biopreservation and Biobanking, ISBER’s official journal, I have been pleased to see a significant increase in the number of papers submitted with topics addressing economics and sustainability. Moving forward I expect that biobank business planning will become more widespread and sophisticated, and more formal studies and publications will emerge. In the past few years we have seen publicly available web-based biobank cost analysis and business planning tools developed by the US National Cancer Institute and the Canadian Tissue Repository Network (CTRNet). This trend is consistent with the overall professionalization of biobanks, which includes the expansion of biological resource degree programs in a number of academic centers, particularly in Europe. These trends, along with the international implementation of best practices, are all consistent with the need to assure that reliably high-quality biospecimens and data are available for sharing, since biobanking is a truly global endeavor.

Jim Vaught, Ph.D.
Past-President, ISBER
Editor-in-Chief, Biopreservation & Biobanking
Senior Research Fellow, International Prevention Research Institute, Lyon

Difference Between LIS and LIMS

October 01, 2016

Laboratory Information System (LIS) and Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) are two very popular informatics tools, which are fairly easily confused. While the two are related, their purposes are entirely different. Here are the striking differences between the two:

LIS is patient based. It stores and manages patients' data and their test results. A LIS system includes patient-centric features such as:

  • Tracking, storing and managing a patient's demographics and associated sample information
  • Managing clinical tests performed on samples and their outcomes
  • Generating compliant patient reports

LIMS, on the other hand, is a comprehensive software tool used for centralizing laboratory's operational workflows and is sample centric rather than patient centric. The data it processes or analyzes includes large batches of complex sample data from drug trials*, biological testing, water treatment facilities etc. Some of the laboratory workflows that a LIMS manages are:

Sample Management: Sample accessioning, storage, chain of custody, test and result management, report generation, and disposal

Subject Management: Patient data entry, data masking, maintaining demographic details and report generation

Test Management: Test registration, result entry and report

Study Management: Projects and research data management

Billing Management: Client profiling and billing

Request Management: Request handling, approval and processing

User Management: User profiles, role based user access rights and data security

Lab Inventory: Stock management of chemicals, reagents, and consumables

Instrument Management: Instrument calibration, Installation Qualification (IQ), Operational Qualification (OQ), and Performance Qualification (PQ)

Kits Management: Multiple operating centers, kit preparation, shipping and tracking

Storage Management: Freezer quality control, location management and tracking

Audit Trail: Record of the series of activities performed on a sample

Are there any crossover features common to both?

Today, LIS has evolved from more than just managing patient information. LISes manage the testing results and sample details associated with a patient. Similar to LIMS, LIS can now import data from instruments and other sources. Newer LIS systems can even track sample location and report testing status, allowing more flexible workflows from a clinical lab's perspective.

Likewise, LIMS systems which were historically limited to patient sample management, are now offering comprehensive auditing for patient testing similar to LIS. Recording patient samples with full chain of custody is important in LIS for tracking the level of access rights (read/write permissions) to a patient's record. This is now implemented in LIMS systems as well because users are not only interested in who reads a record, but also who changes or deletes it.

Billing management, a feature of a LIS system–especially in private healthcare systems– is finding its way into a LIMS system. Billing and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) modules help manage and streamline accounting and patient information.

To summarize, LIS and LIMS have started infringing upon each others dominion to outperform and serve several markets at a time. Their distinct features and functionality are being unified. A LIMS system delivers a confluence of functionality between a traditional LIS, handling patient data, and a traditional LIMS, managing work flows across a lab, right from sample tracking to results reporting.

Which one is better for my lab, LIS or LIMS?

If you are a pathology, clinical lab, veterinary clinic or a hospital dealing with patient-centric ("subjects" and "specimens") data, opt for a LIS system. An LIS must satisfy the reporting and auditing needs of hospital accreditation agencies, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), and Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA), the United States federal regulatory standards) guidelines.

If you are a large facility handling large data sets --group-centric, we are talking about inputs of large batches of samples at a time-- rather than a single input, LIMS is a better option. LIMS is used by many private and commercial organizations such as environmental, pharmaceutical, research, food and beverages, manufacturing, mining, pharmaceutical and petrochemical works. A LIMS system needs to satisfy good laboratory practice (GLP) and 21 CFR Part 11 (the US FDA’s compliance rules for electronic records) guidelines.

When you talk about price, LIS is more cost effective than LIMS, easier to implement, and can be tweaked according to a lab's requirement. Traditional LIMS software is expensive and difficult to implement since different labs have different/specific requirements and versions. With significant advances happening in cloud computing, development efforts are shrinking and flexible payment options are being offered, labs can easily opt for a Cloud-Based LIMS as an alternative to LIS.

*Clinical drug trials is not a part of LIS.

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