Laboratory Informatics Pandemic Thanksgiving

Pandemic Thanksgiving

In the midst of a global pandemic that is straining the world’s medical systems, researchers, and providers like nothing before in our lifetimes, it can be hard to remember to pause, take stock, and express gratitude where we can. The pandemic has brought some good as a result of the bad. For instance, it has forced us to look for new ways to conduct business and communicate. It has also encouraged us to think outside of the box and change our processes. Businesses were pushed to upgrade old technologies or develop new solutions in order to adapt to the new normal. When you step back to look for the positive in a dreadful situation, there is much to be grateful for.  

Much of the extra-ness of 2020 has been dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In reaction to the disease, swift action was taken by the life sciences industry and solutions were facilitated by laboratory informatics. We invite you to share in our gratitude for the tools and skills that will get us through the pandemic and continue to make life easier once the pandemic subsides. Perhaps this post will encourage you to take time to remember those things for which you, too, are thankful.

Remote Work

Pivoting the workflows of the lab to allow for more remote work and social distancing requirements was a huge theme of much of the year. Because the work of the lab couldn’t be interrupted, businesses were forced to find a way to transition from in-person work to remote work. The ability of these companies to do so resulted in many people being able to keep their jobs and to continue supporting their families. This is no small feat and it has opened our eyes to what is truly possible when success hangs in the balance. No doubt some of the new workflows will become permanent moving forward, due to new efficiencies gained all around.

White Paper: "Digital Transformation in the Laboratory"

The essential work of public health screening and testing was able to continue, at an accelerated pace in many cases, thanks to systems enabled for remote access. Interfacing instruments to LIMS and adding a remote access portal allows lab staff to monitor testing without having to be in the lab. A digital transformation into the lab of the future is quickly becoming a reality, in the present. The push for public health laboratory work to continue while observing social distancing and encouraging remote work provided an opportunity for other laboratories to examine their workflows as well.

There are many other aspects of business, not necessarily lab-centered, that have also benefited from the adoption of digital technology to work remotely.

  • Professional development opportunities and society meetings are available online, providing access to many more people
  • Video conferencing has proliferated as a means for collaboration and community building in the face of increased isolation
  • Shared documents (e.g., Office 365, Google Drive) add flexibility and facilitate cooperation
  • Instant messaging and meeting tools (e.g., Slack, Skype, Google Chat) are ubiquitous, allowing teams to stay connected

Read Case Study: LIMS Strategic Planning and Selection at a CRO

The laboratory informatics consultants here at CSols have adopted changes as well, in how we carry out projects. In the past, requirements gathering sessions were done in person. The pandemic has forced us to become proficient at online requirements solicitation. We have created tools and processes to facilitate remote elicitation of client needs, relying on our years of strong relationship building with clients to arrive at shared understandings.

Data Analysis and Visualization

Tracking the COVID-19 pandemic has placed a spotlight on companies that harvest large amounts of data. Much of that data traditionally has been generated and stored without a great deal of thought for how else it might be useful. But because of the pandemic, analysis of mass amounts of data has taken on greater urgency. Businesses realize that the stored data can provide them, not just with scientific discoveries, but also with deeper insights about business practices and trends in their fields. Extracting value from that data is now becoming a priority.

The amount of data collected and stored in your LIMS may become intimidating, but the process is all too familiar to CSols, and we are able to help you make sense of it all. Our consultants routinely advocate for improved use of data visualization tools to provide business value. We work closely with our clients to understand their data needs and to offer solutions in the form of dashboards and reports. Our consultants have expertise in Crystal Reports, LabVantage Reporting and Analytics, Northwest Analytics, Advanced Analytics for STARLIMS, Tableau, and LabWare Visual Workflows. The strong industry knowledge that each CSols consultant brings to laboratory informatics projects gives them insight into potential uses of available data. Better use of available data helps our clients derive business value from their LIMS and increase their return on investment.

Webinar: "Data Analysis and Visualization in STARLIMS"

Instrument Integration

As mentioned earlier, instrument integration is a relatively obvious way to reduce manual laboratory processes and thus, personnel time in the lab. Information can flow seamlessly from one work station to another instead of having to print out and manually enter information into the LIMS or the next analytical instrument.

Instrument integration means reduced person hours in the lab. Reduced person hours in the lab means reduced chances of transmitting diseases like COVID-19. So if your lab hasn’t had the chance to integration your instruments yet, the pandemic is your push to get approval to do it.

Webinar: "LIMS Instrument Interfacing - The Times They Are A-Changing"

For central labs that perform sample testing for several external clients and don’t have an automated way of getting results from their LIMS to the clients, check out the mobile-friendly portal SampleVision™ from LIMS Wizards. It will allow you to access test results anywhere, anytime, on any device.

COVID-19 Developments

Last, but certainly not least, the infectious disease field has gained a tremendous amount of knowledge during 2020. From the rapid, early sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 virus; to widespread, fast testing; to advances in medical care; and to vaccine development; much has been accomplished in a very short time. Lessons learned this year will serve as a solid foundation for virus and genome sequencing research in the future.

Increased emphasis on high-throughput testing, which has been critical in many of these advances, has caused more labs to recognize the value of a LIMS, ELN, or CDS. The large amounts of data generated by such testing require a data management system that can grow with your lab.

If you’re reading this, you are probably somewhere along the path of a laboratory informatics investment for your lab. Wherever you are in that journey, CSols is here to help. We are grateful to our clients for placing their trust with us.

What laboratory informatics advances that have emerged from the pandemic are you grateful for? Feel free to share them below in the comments.

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