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article imageLIMS driving digital transformation of laboratories

By Tim Sandle     Aug 23, 2017 in Science
Digital transformation through the implementation of Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) is making busy testing laboratories more efficient at sampling handling and testing throughput.
Most quality control laboratories, whether they specialize in chemistry or biology, and whether they are in the pharmaceutical, food or any other sector reliant upon detailed and high volume testing, will be seeking efficiencies. These efficiencies will be driven by initiatives like ‘lean labs’ which aim to increase throughput, lower costs and sometimes save labor. There are other drivers, such as the desire to achieve data integrity and data security. The topic of data integrity — whether data can be manipulated post-reading — is a hot topic with regulators, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Laboratories need to engage with and process a range of information sources. This stretches from samples, results, tests, storage, budget, client’s requests and so on. In order to handle this voluminous data the digital solution is the adoption of a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS). This is an integrated network of computers that can be used to receive samples, connect to equipment, receive data inputs, produce reports, run queries, export into different software packages and allow data to be stored, archived and shared.
A LIMS can assist with automation and digitalization of the workspace, as well as overcoming the recurrent problem of identifying where the information is in the first place. The core function of LIMS has traditionally been the management of samples. This typically is initiated when a sample is received in the laboratory, at which point the sample will be registered in the LIMS. However, LIMS can also help with results interpretation, having sophisticated add-on data analysis packages.
Among the areas where LIMS can assist is through automation. This allows many items of laboratory equipment to be connected to a LIMS, allowing measurements such as pH to be transmitted into the LIMS database. A related area is with the capturing of information. Here an electronic lab notebook can be used store test data. This data too can be transmitted to LIMS. Furthermore, LIMS systems can maintain connections between samples and associated data from the moment samples enter the lab to when data is reported.
LIMS can also be used to share data. Data can be uploaded onto a cloud and shared between laboratories; or reviewed by center management for the process of batch review. This makes collaboration easier, once issues of data security have been addressed. As an example, in the U.K. four hospitals in the North-East created a multi-million pound single pathology service, with a common LIMS to allow patient data to be shared and for different expert options to be obtained more rapidly. The move also meant that if a patient was to be transferred from one hospital to another, their data would reach the destination hospital before the patient arrived.
Some LIMS suppliers focus on easing the set-up process. For example, the company LabWaare offers something called Template Solutions which are designed to suit the requirements of specific industries and allow users to rapidly implement systems with reduced configuration time.
The adoption of LIMS is part of a developing trend within the science community towards the adoption of instrumentation with connectivity, that can collect information digitally and create improved security.
More about LIMS, Laboratory, digital transformation, Quality control