An Introduction to LIMS
Laboratory Information Management system (LIMS) is a software that is used in labs for data management and to process a large number of lab samples to manage laboratory workflow. With LIMS, the lab can automate workflows, integrate instruments, and manage samples and associated information. Additionally, labs can produce valid results quickly and can track data across experiments to improve efficiency.
LIMS that are commonly used in clinical labs fall under the below categories:
Clinical Chemistry Analyzers
Immunoassay Systems etc.
Benefits of using LIMS in your lab are:
Integrate instruments or other in-lab systems
Centralize access and storage of data
Track data from sequencing runs
Initiate downstream data analysis.
The Efficiency of LIMS:
The main purpose of using a LIMS in a lab is to improve the efficiency of sample processing and management. Using LIMS would cut down on the need for manual tasks thereby increasing the accuracy in sample analysis. LIMS captures data automatically, gets processed, and is stored for future reference. The LIMs vendor you choose will define the proceeding process of the software.
Generally, the process of a LIMS is divided into five stages:
The sample is logged in after reception.
Assignment, scheduling, and tracking of the sample and the analytical workload
Processing and quality control associated with the sample
Storage of data associated with the sample analysis
Inspection, approval, and compilation of the sample data for report generation and further analysis.
Types of LIS Modules Used In Clinical Laboratory:
The features of Laboratory Information system (LIS) have seen an evolutionary growth over the years from sample tracking to enterprise resource planning for clinical and specialty laboratories.
A typical workflow pattern of a LIS in a clinical lab flows through three phases:
Pre-analytical: Specimen collection.
Analytical: testing of the specimens.
Post-analytical: Result review.
The LIS modules are used by various laboratory departments like:
Various Common Functionalities Used In LIMS:
With the progress in technology, the functions of a LIMS progresses too. LIMS software is built in a way to support any upcoming progress while effectively working on a basic set of definite functionalities like the collection of data, tracking of sample, processing, data storage, and report generation.
Some of the core functionalities of LIMS are explained as below:
LIMS was originally created to help in the process of sample management systems occurring in laboratories. This system gets initiated when a sample is received in a laboratory and gets registered in a LIMS. Since a large number of samples are collected and analyzed in a day, it would be difficult to record the samples without the chance of being confused with other analysis. With LIMS, It would be easier to track the sample if it is labeled and assigned correctly by using RFID on the samples or barcodes.
The information collected and stored via a LIMS would fall under the following criteria:
1) Details about the person whose sample is taken
2) Details of the doctor/clinic who recommended for an analysis
3) The tests/analysis needed to be taken on the sample
4) Stages of the sample and destination
5) Storing procedures
6) Expected report generation date
7) Record creation for future purposes.
The need for workflow management using a LIMS is as important as Sample management and record-holding. The accuracy of a working system does not just depend on the data; it needs an on-point process assessment where a LIMS system can be used. As the name indicates, workflow management helps automate workflows and assign work if delegated precisely in the software.
All you would have to do for better workflow management using LIMS is:
Enter proper codes to direct the LIMS system for a work assignment
Configure the process flow of the work for sample analysis
Assign exact instruments for the particular work.
Workflow management using a LIMS saves time and conducts the job with precision.
Electronic Medical Record (EMR)/ Electronic Health Record (EHR) is software that collects and stores information on the patient’s medical history in the form of records that can be shared via different health care mediums. Many LIMS have this EMR/EHR functionality built-in in their system. Using a LIMS with EHR function will be a huge asset to your lab as the real-time data exchange can be made possible easily.
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Running a productive lab smoothly is tedious. Whether you are dealing with multiple samples or if you have an excessive number of deadlines approaching, following the practical tips given below will help in managing your lab efficiently.
1. Keep an eye on your stuff:
Your inventory covers all the specimens and reagents your lab will need for diagnostic or experimentation analysis. An effective way of sustaining inventory is to use a tool which makes use of barcodes to identify, categorize, and track samples. Regardless, the labels you utilize for vials, racks, tubes, and boxes need to be suitable for the atmosphere in which they will be used. For instance, labels marked ”cryogenic” can come in handy for any reagents stored in freezers or cell lines or specimens stored in liquid nitrogen.
2. Sustainment is key:
Maintenance of the lab infrastructure is vital to ensure the durability of your reagents and samples. Refrigerators and freezers need to be sustained at the ideal temperature, Co2/O2 levels in each incubator should be controlled carefully, and the stocks of liquid nitrogen and other lab supplies must be replenished. Systems which can control your storage equipment, offering real-time notifications and updates while keeping detailed reports and logs of all parameter related activity can make this entire process automated, with minimal human intervention, and will ensure that no other thing is missed. These type of systems work with a cloud-based framework and can integrate all reports in a single place and will notify the lab personnel if anything goes wrong.
3. Stay Coordinated:
Spending time in workflow management will enable you to enhance sample traceability, track inventory, improve the overall personnel productivity, and more. Incorporating a LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System) is an excellent way to do this as it will note the movement of each sample during the testing process, monitoring its custody chain, and enabling users to schedule downstream processing, analysis, and testing in a smooth manner. Getting the most out of your LIMS by using barcoded labels is critical as both will aid in sample traceability and tracking.
Communication and coordination are also vital when incorporating any system that optimizes workflow. Holding regular lab meetings will enable you to create and control any LIMS you wish to utilize and also keep a good record of all lab activities with the help of well-annotated lab books and LIMS.
4. It’s the system, not the people:
No matter how organized the labs are, errors will occur. Designing barriers and openly discussing the mistakes will decrease the likelihood of them reappearing. By introducing multiple checkpoints and verifications, you can reduce the chances that the mistakes will stack up causing unanticipated consequences. But this should not be done without compromising the speed of processing in the lab. Maintaining lab infrastructure, keeping a managed inventory, and coordinating your workflow are all kinds of barriers which can prevent critical errors. Managing all related data in your lab books will also enable you to revolve the mistakes as each test or experiment can be verified with comprehensive documentation even if the person is no longer a lab member.
5. Utilize Common Sense:
Some labs are specialized in carrying out a small set of techniques that needs specific labels. For instance, Xylene resistant labels for histochemistry labs. Regardless, most of the labs do not have tremendous resources with which to buy labels and equipment. Managing a lab cannot be like a one size fits all approach. In this case, it’s crucial to assess what the issues are and to come up with answers from both financial and organizational standpoints. In most cases, simple solutions are enough. For instance, you can have signed up sheets either online or on paper for machines like biosafety, centrifuges, cabinets, and thermocyclers, etc.
6. Thinking Creatively:
Following the current trends are important. You need to make sure that you’re thinking in a creative manner even for simpler things as it can help avoid issues in the lab and also can enhance the research pace.
Efficient communication is crucial regardless of the lab you work in, but with every member consistently working on various techniques or projects, it's possible that they fall out of the habit of collaborating. Lab meetings are a significant way to solve problems, especially in the beginning of the week, so that everyone knows what their tasks are and how to complete them. It’s a good habit to make a relationship with your office mates even outside the lab as this helps to have excellent communication.
Hope the above blog helped you to know about managing a lab productively and their benefits in depth.
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The healthcare industry, like any other industry, is not self-reliant. Since this is an ever-evolving industry there's no stopping for the challenges that arise or the solutions for it. One such healthcare solution is the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS). The Laboratory management system has been providing healthcare solutions for the industry, over the past couple of decades: but what it really is?
LIMS And What Does It Do?
The Laboratory management system started as a system to keep a record of test samples, their results and all other particulars of donor and patients sample. From the point of its inception, the laboratory management system followed the traditional methods of manual labeling and record-keeping; it was followed only until the introduction of computers to healthcare solutions.
Ever since the Laboratory Information Management System is in a course of upward trajectory.
As the computers evolved so did software. Dedicated LIMS software packages began appearing with tweaks and new features every time. The LIMS software today is so reliable that once a test sample is collected in lab or patients house, it is taken to a pathology laboratory and given a tag, it is almost impossible to lose track of it. The LIMS software packages can manage and update the progress in tests and can also update the result of the tests to the database in real-time.
To put in simple words:
A laboratory Information management system, shortly known as LIMS, is a software that is used to help lab faculties in collecting samples, processing and delivering reports to patients. It acts as an interface between the lab faculties and the database where all the information and essential details are stored. This includes all the tests conducted under a particular facility.
In its early days, the laboratory management system was an isolated off the network system. But as technology paved the way for more advanced secure networking, the Laboratory Information Management System stepped into the next-gen of healthcare solutions.
Even though the laboratory management systems provide easy accessibility of the information from the database, it isn't enough. Its information resource was limited to that one particular facility alone. The limitations of a standalone laboratory management system include
Limitation in the storage capacity of the database servers
The maintenance of servers at the healthcare facility itself involves difficulties
Medical procedures that involve referral to different locations will require carrying of physical records; which is an inconvenience again.
Though the chances are less: if the servers go down it is almost impossible to recover the data unless there is a backup, which will require additional servers.
Since standalone laboratory management systems are not cloud-based, sharing patient reports via App, SMS or Emails is restricted.
Since there are technologies developed already to overcome these limitations, they should be employed immediately.
The cloud storage is a powerful technology than it sounds. The cloud storage has virtually no limits on the storage capacity, thereby immensely supporting the laboratory information management system and other healthcare solutions.
The data centers provide a larger bandwidth to access the servers. That is more than enough to provide traffic less access.
Since the cloud servers have multiple redundant systems, there is always a backup and data loss is not a thing to worry about.
The centralized data center for the laboratory management system makes it possible to access data from anywhere in the world with authorization.
The maintenance of these servers is extremely cost-effective compared to the standalone LIMS.
As LIMS is cloud-based, it can connect multiple stakeholders. You can also have control over sample tracking, processing and delivering. And there is easy scalability in business.
The inter-connection of LIMS software servers also introduces the patients to the inside of the Laboratory Information Management System. Since the LIMS software made the information easily accessible, the patients can easily keep track of their records. This also helps patients to keep their personal health records up to date with no effort.
LIMS Beyond Limits:
The LIMS software, even though started as a record-keeping and managing healthcare solution, it has now evolved into a state of complete management solution. It has given a massive boost to the administration of the healthcare facility and also the financial management of the healthcare centers.
The LIMS software acts as an interface between the laboratory equipment and other devices. The Laboratory Information management System is capable of interfacing with the database in real-time to import and export data. It also acts as an interface between multiple devices within the lab for better coordination.
For instance, an MRI scanner is only a scanning machine with an image display unit and a control unit. But, with the LIMS software machine interface, the data from the scanner can be stored directly in the database to the respective patient name. It helps the doctors to analyze the data whenever required.
Time management is one of the most challenging objectives of management. The LIMS software used in today's healthcare facilities provides day to day management solutions besides healthcare solutions.
The LIMS software can make schedules for doctors and specialists. It also helps in scheduling for follow-ups and cancellation of appointments at the request of patients through IVRs and websites.
Since there is always a demand for the time slots to access the laboratory equipment and devices, including the high-cost scanners which are a rare resource, LIMS software can schedule their time slots in the most effective way.
In addition to these, the Laboratory Information Management System also has the in-house pharmacy records maintained, notifies the maintenance of laboratory equipment and other services.
The AI of LIMS and it's future:
The future of the Laboratory Information Management System has already shown us a glimpse of what it is capable of over the years.
The AI is definitely the future of every field and the Laboratory Information Management System is no exception. The introduction of LIMS software to artificial intelligence can automate pretty much everything in the laboratory management system and improve the qualities of healthcare solutions. Smart labs will be the newest addition to the list of healthcare solutions by the LIMS software.
The advancements in various supporting fields such as microfluidics, biometrics, lab-on-a-chip technologies, and their automation have ensured the steady progress of the Laboratory Information Management system. The day is not far when the AI Laboratory Information management System (AI LIMS) will be working along with humans and serve humanity.
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Upgrading your clinical laboratory might be the latest enhancement you are implementing in your lab. This upgrade means you are automating the key functions to easily maintain the workflow. To make sure that your systems work in a smooth, harmonized and safe manner, consider installing a cloud-based Laboratory Information Management system in your Lab. The cloud-based LIMS is no doubt the best choice to make as it has many advantages. A few of which are:
The data stored in the cloud are fully encrypted, hence 100% data safety.
Cost saving as there is no need of server maintenance.
With effective data recovery, any data loss can be reverted.
No manpower required as everything is stored in the cloud, unlike physical servers.
Below are some simple tips to effectively manage your Cloud-based Laboratory Information Management System:
Implement a Cloud-Based Service Desk:
The most important step to do while implementing a cloud-based LIMS system is to provide a mini web page for clients to find information that caters to the need of every patient. The internet is the influence king of the virtual world; so most of your patients will visit your website first, before heading over to your lab. Set up a cloud-based service desk and assist your patients just like you would do in your physical laboratory premises.
Make sure the webpage has a live chat facility so your customers can chat about the types of tests they can do and laboratory locations. Providing a live chat facility can help you to follow-up in case the customers log out of the page suddenly. Also, features such as patient portals and customer portals empower your customers to download report through the website making them completely independent.
Ease of Mobility:
Investing in a LIMS mobile app or website is the biggest advantage that Cloud-based servers can provide a laboratory. Since the data is stored at a remote location and is not bound by the constraints of physical hardware on the premises, investing on a mobile version of your laboratory’s website or even an App is a good idea.
You can take patient satisfaction to another level when you offer your patients and potential patients the ease to reach or access their health information on the go. With a virtual service desk in place, going mobile would mean more and better interactions, increased patient satisfaction.
LIMS Staff Training:
It’s essential to train laboratory staffs to unlock the full power of your LIMS software application. To utilize LIMS software effectively, you can segregate the employees, department wise and provide training accordingly. Delegating one person as the head of training in every department can take the responsibility of providing LIMS related knowledge sharing and periodic training. LIMS software training can include configuration options, storage, and retrieval of data, managing your workflows and reporting. Staff training in each department is very important for businesses to succeed.
Increase Speed of Operation:
While there is technology in place to conduct meetings between people from different locations, Cloud-based LIS effectively helps access any data from any location as long as their login has access rights to that data. This ensures faster exchange of information resulting in an overall increased speed of operations of the laboratory.
Ease up the Implementation Process and Quality Indicators:
The constant check of quality to ensure stability in business is the major requirement for any industry. With clinical laboratory, it is more of a service quality check rather than product one. Hence, quality indicators are of utmost importance to a laboratory.
LIMS can monitor jobs like Sample monitoring, sample workflow process, patient visit count, inventory flow, cash flow, consultant performance, and overall business fluctuations over a period and analyze the metrics to issue performance-based documents. Then LIMS can develop standard quality indicators and key performance indicators.
These are the few steps in which you could optimize our laboratory functions by using cloud-based LIMS. By identifying your business metrics, you can now establish new grounds for business optimization with cloud technology.
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The profession of laboratory management is a complicated one that requires the utmost care of the patients. The lab must convey a sense of trust to the customers so that they can entrust you with their samples for the analysis.
Clinical Laboratories can now Wave off Manual Work:
With all this hard work already being done by clinical laboratories, the department of HealthCare took a new turn when it was decided that a lab has to send results directly to the patients. This was mainly done to relieve the stress from the patients who are waiting for their reports from the doctors. With instant report generation, the doctors can now decide quickly on the critical cases.
The mandatory direct lab report delivery to the patient can be done in various ways whichever is comfortable with the patient and the lab. With the latest technology on queue, the task has been rendered easy for the labs to be in touch with the patients. In this blog, let us discuss the various smart ways in which a lab can send lab reports to patient and deliver the test sample reports to them.
Conveying the Message via Short Message Service (SMS):
Sharing reports via SMS can add on to the benefit of sample report collection. One small SMS on the result of the test analysis can set the patients mind at peace.
Lab reports once generated can easily be shared via SMS straight to the Patient or the Doctor, thus completely eliminating the need for manual handling, wait time or traveling. Reports of multiple tests performed by the patient are shared as separate updates to avoid possible commotion. With the intervention of LIMS in clinical laboratories, we help in conveying instantaneous report results to the patient as soon as the technician generates the results. SMS conveying system for test results has so many advantages some of which are:
No manual human intervention is needed
Immediate report sharing is made possible for emergency cases or critical patients
Conveying the Message via E-mails:
One of the fail-safe methods for accessing patients anytime is messaging via the electronic mails or E-mails. This way the patient can be notified even at their place of work without them having to visit our facilities for manual collection of the report.
Once the lab report is generated with all the optimum observation made from the testing of samples, it can be sent via an E-mail in PDF format of an attachment so that the patient can infer from the report and take the necessary action if any required. A LIMS linked lab can save a lot of unwanted manual task and convey the message to the patient and doctor immediately for analysis. It has the same benefits as that of SMS with an added advantage of the whole report being shared.
Report generation on Mobile App:
A pre-installed mobile app on your smartphone can even track your test analysis phases in your mobile and let you know when you can expect the test results. With just a few swipes, you can view your test results as soon as it is generated by the technician. What better than the confidentiality of your smartphone to let you know the results.
A smartphone with internet connectivity is all that is needed to access reports on the go. The advantage of the mobile app is that you can check the readiness of your report anywhere and at any time.
Direct Collection of the report from the lab:
Out of all the smart ways listed above, this method can be said as the last smart one. However, direct collection of the report from the lab itself is also the safest method when dealing with sensitive information.
Though it requires the physical job to get the report from the lab, it can also be completed by posting the report from the lab to the patient’s home directly.
The direct collection can be combined with all of the above methods of lab report collected by the patient. The patient can first be notified of the result and feel at ease to collect the report. With the full PDF as sent via an E-mail, the report can be viewed and consulted with a doctor also. This makes the task of collection of the printed report generated in the lab at ease and not urgent.
These were the few methods to send lab reports to the patient, the clinical laboratory can use all of the methods or some of the above to make the patient feel at ease with the lab and thereby creating a sense of trust with the lab.
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