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What is a Laboratory Information Management System

by janeausten

Understanding Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS)

It takes a lot of time and effort to manage the massive amounts of data produced by laboratories using the old-fashioned, manual methods.

Digital data management in the lab, along with task automation and integration with external instruments and systems, made possible by a laboratory information management system, allows for optimization and redefinition of processes to increase efficiency.

The flow of samples and associated data flowing through a laboratory needs to be managed. The various workflows used by the laboratory associated with the testing they perform need to be managed as well. This is what a LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System) is for.

LIMS began as a repository for sample information and associated test data but has expanded to include other uses, such as evaluation and comparison of sample results, ensuring laboratory procedures are followed, enabling integration with laboratory instruments, and creation of certificates of analysis and reports.

Why do we need a Laboratory Information Management System?

The primary goal of implementing a laboratory information management system (LIMS) is to streamline laboratory procedures by decreasing the need for human intervention and increasing the degree to which automated processes are utilized, all while decreasing the potential for error and ensuring that data is consistent and compliant with relevant regulations.

In a laboratory setting, a LIMS primarily provides benefits in the following ways:

• Samples can be tracked in their entirety.

• All data and documents are only accessible to authorised users. Any additions, changes, or deletions are fully logged and time stamped in an audit trail within the LIMS.

• Ensuring laboratory equipment is calibrated and maintained correctly.

• Alerting users when certain conditions are met, such as when samples are found to be out of specification.

• Key performance indicators (KPIs) can be used to monitor sample throughput, ensure urgent samples are treated with high priority, and to create management reports showing critical bottlenecks within the laboratory to drive efficiency. 

• Reduced potential for data loss (as data can never be deleted).

• Laboratory inventory can be managed to ensure re-ordering occurs automatically when needed.

• There is no limit to the amount of space you can use to store data (internal to the company or in the cloud).

• Archive functions exist to archive and retrieve data as needed.

Explaining the Functions of a LIMS

As a result of the diverse nature of laboratory work, many different types of data are produced and need to be managed.

When using a LIMS system for sample management, the first step is typically for an operator to enter the sample’s data, including details like the sample’s type, collection date, submitter’s name, the tests required, and more.  

The samples go through various steps, including preparation and testing, generating data that is stored securely and can be accessed at any time. Traceability of data is guaranteed throughout the entire process.

Most laboratory information management systems (LIMS) use a unique identification number to keep track of individual samples, often printed as a barcode label and attached to the sample container. This makes it possible for authorised users to gain access to the data by scanning the barcode or entering the number.

One of the most important aspects of a LIMS is to manage and report on the outcomes of various laboratory tests performed on each sample. The system may perform many related tasks, including rejecting results that don’t meet the established specifications, and spotting trends and outliers using data within a defined sub-set of samples.

What do LIMS’s primary features entail?

These types of laboratory information management platforms typically include the following features:

Management planning

In order to conduct the necessary tests in a laboratory, it is necessary to allocate the various equipment and personnel at your disposal.

For example, a LIMS system can help you manage instrument maintenance so that only instruments in calibration are used for testing. and ensure only properly trained staff perform the allocated tests. In a similar vein, a LIMS can manage priorities to ensure key customers are given priority, and provide management functions such as quoting and invoicing.

Administration of Samples

Laboratory samples are managed by enforcing a strict workflow. The LIMS ensures that samples only move along the workflow to the next stage when the previous stage is complete. Since each sample has a unique code, sample labels can be created and printed automatically to assist proper identification. LIMS may also be used to manage the storage of samples. For instance, a LIMS may be used to manage the location of samples when they are put into storage within a Biobank, enabling fast retrieval of the samples when they are required for research or testing purposes.

Administration Analytics

There are strict criteria and procedures that must be followed when analysing the samples. The workflow, test specifications, analysis procedures, and pass/fail test criteria are all defined within a LIMS system.

The workflow usually includes steps to review and approve the results after they have been entered (either manually or via interfaces with equipment or instruments). When data falls outside of expected parameters, an alert or deviation is issued.

Controlling stock

It takes a lot of reagents, chemical components, laboratory equipment, etc. to run a lab. Keeping track of when supplies expire and what needs to be replaced is made much easier with the help of a LIMS.

Generation of Reports

For effective laboratory process management, a LIMS may generate many types of reports. The decision to accept or reject a sample is on the results of the analyses performed on the sample, which are included in the CoA (Certificate of Analysis), one of the most relevant reports.

There are a wide variety of high-quality, cutting-edge, and affordable commercial options for managing data in laboratories. To manage your lab’s data without spending a dime, open source LIMS software is an option, though support to configure these to your needs and to assist debugging for these can be limited.

Computer solutions, such as laboratory information management systems (LIMS), are the best way to manage laboratory processes and records and reduce risks arising from manual processes.

Having an automated system that facilitates efficient information management, prevents errors, and speeds up processes is the ideal solution to optimise time and resources within a laboratory.

Autoscribe Informatics

Autoscribe Informatics, a provider of LIMS, prides itself on the individualised attention it gives each of its clients. The company’s staff consists of experts in the fields of LIMS, science, and enterprise software. They have been ISO9001 certified since 1997, and their management team has decades of experience in LIMS and data management markets.

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