When you implement a laboratory information management system (LIMS), you’ll have to plan for what you will integrate with your LIMS and when you will do it. Understanding the potential benefits or difficulties of integrations will help the implementation team do this planning. In today’s informatics and data-sharing environment, it’s true that almost any system or instrument can be integrated with a LIMS, but what should be integrated with your LIMS and in what order is unique to your situation. This blog post offers some guidance.
At the heart of the question of what should be integrated with a LIMS is the goal of optimizing business processes. You may want to start with processes that present some kind of risk or that are high volume. CSols uses a risk matrix that looks at the probability of an event and the severity of the harm that would result. How you evaluate risk and its influence on business processes will differ, depending on the lab environment you’re in.
Another way to determine the priority order of your integrations is to evaluate the complexity of the integration. The easier the integration, the faster an organization can realize time savings and reduced risks of human error. For these reasons, many organizations will take advantage of the relatively simple integrations that are available for, or in some cases built in to, the LIMS. At minimum, you will need to plan for some level of configuration with these integrations—even for simple ones.
It is possible, and even popular, to put off any integrations until after the initial LIMS implementation is complete. However, if you don’t have a dedicated LIMS administrator on your staff who can handle the technical challenges of integrations, it is worth having the identified critical systems or instruments integrated during your implementation.
Labs will have an array of instruments and software systems that are capable of integration with their LIMS, depending on the processes they are running. However, just because you can integrate all of your lab instruments and systems with your LIMS doesn’t mean you should. Integrating systems and instruments can be a time-consuming, technical task so it’s not always feasible to connect every software and every piece of equipment. Your organization should carefully weigh the efforts required against the benefits.
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In addition to the commonly integrated systems that have been mentioned previously, more and more of the less complex lab instruments are capable of LIMS integration. This added capability is meant to address data integrity concerns.
For instance, many pH meters, titrators, barcode readers, walk-in freezers, and lab balances come with software that enables integration and adheres to the ALCOA+ principles. Configuring the instrument management and calibration module that is available with most LIMS products will give you the ability to interface many types of instruments with your LIMS.
If this is done, it becomes possible to schedule instrument calibration and maintenance automatically, log equipment time from a central interface, or track instrument performance.
When you choose your instrument and system integrations with the goal of optimizing your business processes, you will be able to decide which integrations are right for your lab. The right system and instrument integrations realize ROI. Beyond the reduced risk of human error and accompanying improvements in data integrity, your lab will enjoy increased efficiency and productivity. This increased productivity may, in turn, lead to improvements in user satisfaction due to less time spent on manual tasks, and to breakthroughs in innovation thanks to increased data access.
What instruments or systems do you feel are the most important to integrate with your LIMS?