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article imageFour pillars of the digital laboratory

By Tim Sandle     Nov 3, 2017 in Science
For a laboratory to thrive in the modern age it needs to transform its services and functions in order to remain relevant and competitive. Fundamental to this is how data is stored, retrieved, analyzed and shared. We take a look at some trends.
The digital transformation of laboratories brings many advantages, not least bringing together processes that were once considered highly separate steps, such as testing, source document verification, and data entry and edits. New technologies offer new ways for linking these processes together so that information can be used more rapidly.
According to analyst Kim Shah (of Thermo Fisher Scientific), many laboratories have begun digital transformation strategies. This has been made possible through advances in instrumentation and the ability of laboratory test instruments to integrate with mobile and cloud computing technologies. An example of digital laboratory technology is with instruments that can connect a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS). In addition there are electronic lab notebooks and laboratory execution systems.
For laboratories outlining a ‘go digital’ strategy, Shah outlines four pillars that need to be considered. These are:
Integration: This is to avoid processes, technology (and thus data) being locked into silos. This prevents the sharing of ideas and hampers visibility, and thus leading to inefficiencies. This can be overcome through applications like executive dashboards.
Innovation: Digital data allows scientific centers to innovate through computer modeling and results sharing. A prime example is with drug discovery.
Automation: The automation of laboratory equipment means faster analysis and greater security of data. In addition, associated time consuming tasks can be streamlined such instrument calibration, user training and maintenance.
Business Intelligence: The digital capture of data allows managers, including those located at other centers to see laboratory progress or productivity more clearly. Here the advantages of cloud computing are apparent.
These four pillars can be used as the basis of a technological roadmap to map out the digital transformation of the laboratory function.
A secondary area that needs to run in tandem is culture. Laboratory workers may need to acquire new skills. These impact upon accessing information and how samples are identified, tracked and retrieved. Viewing data becomes no longer the process of looking directly at the recording but instead looking at it through a series of components.
A third area for consideration is with data storage management. Laboratory technicians need to manage the print output and the data files and to preserve the computer application-data structure. This requires the implementation of a suitable file management system.
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