How to Know It’s Time to Replace Your Lab Information Management Software

“Do we need a new laboratory information management system (LIMS) or can we make do with our current system?” This is a question we often hear from labs struggling to make their existing software do what they need.

“Replace the LIMS” is generally not the answer labs want to hear. That’s because a new implementation can be costly and time-consuming. But if the LIMS is no longer fit for purpose or if the LIMS vendor is not supportive, replacing the software (what we call replatforming) might be the only option.

What’s the lifespan of a LIMS?

How many years of use you can get from a LIMS varies greatly, depending on which LIMS you have and how it’s supported. Over the time we’ve worked in the industry, we’ve seen an average lifespan of between five and ten years for fourth-generation (post-1995) systems.

Many growing labs find that they outgrow their current software or have requirements that exceed the capabilities of their vendor or services partner sooner than they expect. That means they’re faced with replatforming.

In some cases, a lab might be able to make do with its current system. However, if it’s a constant struggle to use the software to achieve the desired goals or a lab is looking to grow, it might be time to consider the options.

Signs it’s time to re-evaluate your current LIMS

At Semaphore, we see three common signals that indicate it’s time for a lab to consider replatforming:

  • You use multiple software tools to track samples or organize tasks, and move data from one to the next manually. We encounter many labs using several applications to track and organize wet lab processes. This can be a convoluted solution they’ve come to over time, as they’ve added new tools to address particular pain points that couldn’t be addressed with their LIMS. Obviously, this is not ideal. A well-designed and integrated lab software stack should eliminate the need for people to frequently interact with multiple pieces of software.
  • You find it difficult and overly time-consuming to integrate new tools, reconfigure the software, or create or update a workflow within the software. Labs need to be able to adapt quickly. Cumbersome processes are barriers to innovation and hinder a lab’s ability to scale. The faster you can improve, the faster you can innovate and produce new assays.
  • You have to adapt your ways of working to fit with how the software is modeled. We touched on this when we talked about how to select the best LIMS, where we pointed out the importance of modeling the hierarchical relationships of samples, patients, and orders. Some systems simply aren’t set up to model these relationships correctly. This type of limitation could be curtailing your lab’s growth.

It all comes down to operational efficiency

If your current LIMS is having a negative impact on your lab turnaround times or laboratory-developed test time-to-market, your lack of operational efficiency is probably costing you more than you realize — in terms of monetary value and staff morale.

Of course, you’ll have to do your own analysis to understand the true cost of moving to a new platform, but if you’re finding you are running into some of the issues above, it’s worth taking a look at where the bottlenecks lie.

Remember, too, that replatforming is not the only option. In some cases, working with a professional services partner with industry experience, and implementing new integrations, could help you streamline your current solution without the expense of an entirely new LIMS. Read this post to learn more about whether you’re ready to bring in a consultant for a software project.

The ultimate goal is to not have to replatform

At Semaphore, we strongly believe the best software is future-proof and capable of evolving with your business. With the right system, your lab should not have to replatform. The platform itself should be modular and extensible, easily configurable, and able to grow with your business.

Contact us if you need help evaluating your situation or want to work with a reliable, experienced services partner. We have a highly experienced team with over 230,000 hours of experience in implementing molecular diagnostics informatics solutions. Or check out our next-generation LIMS — Labbit — a solution designed to unlock faster lab test development.