In the past twelve months, we’ve covered a lot of ground on the blog, and many of the posts have clearly resonated with clinical labs. So, we thought it would be interesting to share the topics that readers like you have been most interested in. Not surprisingly, these tie into what’s been happening in the clinical diagnostics sector this year.
Trends affecting clinical labs in 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic continued to drive change across the sector, demanding record turnaround time by labs, which was facilitated by more automation and integration of system components.
One review of laboratory medicine management reported that managing, accessing, and processing “big data” for the purposes of COVID-19 investigation and surveillance was a challenge. This is something we witnessed second-hand in our work with public health labs this year. Because the sharing of data is not currently standardized, securely accessing and collaborating on data from multiple regions while maintaining regulatory compliance is difficult, but very important. It’s something we touched on in our previous post on ontology.
With vaccination rates rising and COVID-19 testing ramping down, and as regular healthcare concerns move back to the forefront, labs are likely to see an increasing demand for basic diagnostic tests. Labs that are able to manage this influx efficiently will have an advantage.
We anticipate that labs, having seen the business value in software infrastructure (automation, integration, and scalability), will want to pursue further refinements to their workflows. The ultimate goal for many could be to create end-to-end systems and make their data more easily shareable with partners across the ecosystem, which would further bolster the usefulness of the important data generated first-hand by the clinical laboratory.
Hot topics on the blog
In line with these trends, our blog metrics tell us that these are the four popular searches by clinical labs in the last twelve months:
- Selecting and implementing a LIMS
- Clinical lab accreditation and regulation
Our most visited blog posts this year have been:
- Choosing the Best LIMS for Your Molecular Diagnostics Lab
Eban discussed some aspects of selecting a LIMS that labs often overlook — things such as regulatory support, extensibility, and the ability to extract your data if you need to move to another platform in the future. He also talked about advanced features worth considering, including modeling relationships between the sample, patient, and order; compatibility with your molecular diagnostics domain; and reporting and search capabilities.
- Laboratory Accreditation: What’s Software Got To Do With It?
Danny looked at the various certification, accreditation, and FDA approval programs that are a vital part of the clinical lab business and the importance of traceability within your lab’s software. Basically, your software and lab systems must be in harmony. Any divergence between processing and functionality presents potential audit challenges by accreditation bodies, which can lead to extended time frames, greater cost, and missed opportunities in the market.
- How to Overcome the Technical Challenges of Lab Integrations
Avro shared three different types of integrations — instrument integrations, medical record integrations, and enterprise software integrations — and the challenges that come with each. If you’re curious about the pros and cons of file-based, HL7-based, and API-based integrations, for example, this is the post for you.
- 6 Powerful Ways to Automate Your Next-Generation Sequencing Lab
Shahriar described six ways your lab could use automation to increase speed and efficiency. This is especially important for high-throughput labs. But it’s also critical if your lab is currently low-throughput and you want to scale. As well as improving efficiency, automation can help you reduce human errors and boost the morale of your highly qualified lab technicians, by freeing up their time for more meaningful work.
- Managing a LIMS Implementation in a Dynamic, Regulated Environment
Danny talked about two methodologies for managing your LIMS implementation requirements — waterfall and agile. These methodologies have their advantages and disadvantages, so before you start on your implementation, it’s worthwhile choosing the one that’s right for your lab. Another tip is to identify a primary liaison between all the stakeholders. This allows the implementation team to focus on their work and gives them a direct line of communication with stakeholders.
If you’ve been reading up on these topics yourself, rest assured you’re not alone. The entire sector has experienced unprecedented disruption over the last couple of years. But we’ve also seen incredible resilience, with labs scaling their throughput and rising to the challenge of increasing demands for ever-greater capacity for change.
As we head into the new year, we recommend continuing your focus on lab processes to see if automation or integrations could optimize your production system and help your staff be more efficient. In some cases, particularly where staff no longer have to manually enter data, your lab could save hundreds of hours of unnecessary work and massively reduce the risk of errors. Plus, investing in these types of efficiencies is good for long-term ROI and offers the potential for more medical breakthroughs that change patients’ lives.
Contact us if you need help with crafting an informatics strategy, implementing a LIMS, creating software regulatory documentation, or building integrations or automation. Or see our blog for other posts on these topics.