Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for almost three years, medical laboratories have been challenged as never before by unprecedented demand for diagnostic tests with rapid results. The demand for testing continues with the recent surge of COVID-19, influenza, and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) cases in the US, often called a “tripledemic.”
Looking to 2023 and beyond, how can clinical labs cost-effectively scale their business to meet these needs?
The laboratory information management system (LIMS) is the lifeblood of lab operations. Developers of these systems are uniquely positioned to help their customers diversify by adding specialized offerings. Your LIMS should hold three keys to cost-effective service growth and business sustainability: automation, integration, and interconnectivity.
LIMS automation enables clinical labs to dramatically improve productivity. Automating more steps in the test processing sequence means fewer laboratorians handling specimens with less chance of human error due to manual data input, as well as greater workflow efficiency. Diagnostic specimens are analyzed much faster and with greater accuracy. Reducing turnaround time delivers test results quickly to clinicians and their patients, minimizing delays in determining the next steps in their care.
LIMS integration, both internal and external, goes hand-in-hand with automation. In addition to linking analytical instruments with the LIMS to improve data quality, labs benefit significantly from front-end integration with electronic health records, or EHRs, in clinicians’ offices, hospitals, and imaging centers.
Automating reporting and distribution speeds up access to test results and eliminates handling paper documents in point-of-care (POC) settings. An all-in-one LIMS platform with a single user interface allows for labs to manage data all in one place. When tailored to a clinical lab’s specific requirements, the LIMS can streamline process workflows and help address staffing shortages in many areas.
Both automation and integration in LIMS software architecture are taking on greater importance for future-proofing labs.
Another consideration in scaling clinical lab operations, especially for smaller businesses, is improving interconnectivity with other clinical labs. A cloud-based LIMS platform that offers lab-to-lab connectivity within a secure private network can link multiple labs and fully integrate their workflows. Such a system maximizes each lab’s daily testing capacity and versatility by facilitating collaboration, regardless of location, to manage spikes in testing and alleviate bottlenecks.
Having an interconnected LIMS creates a continuously growing network that is far more flexible and efficient than many individual legacy LIMS. This interconnectivity enables smaller independent labs to team up, take on more clients, and effectively compete with larger diagnostic companies nationally.
Keeping the cost of LIMS down
Affordable pricing is also critical when implementing LIMS automation, integration, and interconnectivity to support the expansion of a medical laboratory.
A number of vendors require a fixed minimum monthly service charge and an upfront capital investment for on-premise data storage equipment. However, there are suppliers of cloud-based platforms who offer pay-as-you-go subscription models with transactional pricing where users pay a smaller initial service charge and a transaction fee for each test processed, but there is no capital cost.
This pricing model allows smaller enterprises to affordably advance their LIMS capabilities. As a lab’s range of testing and testing volumes increase, they can add equipment interfaces and other upgrades as needed without incurring major expense.
Planning for growth and long-term sustainability
As diagnostic labs plan for future growth and long-term sustainability, they should choose a LIMS provider committed to partnering with clients throughout the entire life cycle of system selection, installation, launch, and updating or expansion.
Deploying a new system quickly to minimize operational disruption, ensuring strict compliance with all applicable regulatory, data security, and privacy standards, as well as making customer service available 24/7 for troubleshooting or answering questions demonstrates that your LIMS supplier is fully committed to client satisfaction and your business success.