The validity of your clinical research results depends on the quality of the biospecimens you are using. Therefore, you should aim to improve the quality of your biospecimens to impact your research results.
If you are using disparate, legacy systems the consistency and accuracy of sample and donor profile information captured varies greatly. In addition, this can be compounded if you are also storing data across multiple spreadsheets.
Missing or inaccurate sample and donor profile information can lead to unsuitable biospecimens being chosen for analysis and processing. Furthermore, valid samples in your biorepository may not even be highlighted as applicable for use. Even worse, you may use samples without the appropriate consent.
Sometimes even trying to choose and locate biospecimens for research can be time-consuming and expensive. Thereby, many institutions simply purchase some more samples.
This all results in valuable time, money, biospecimens and lab resources being wasted.
The solution involves several components. This starts from the processes used to capture data at the time the biospecimen is taken, through to how this sample and donor data is managed and augmented as it progresses through the chain of custody into your laboratory.
How a centralised Sample Management system or Laboratory Information Management Software (LIMS) can help
A centralised Sample Management system or Laboratory Information Management Software (LIMS) helps standardise biospecimen data registration, use and management processes. These systems can provide simple tools to import, validate and format incoming biospecimen data. Thereby ensuring consistency and quality in the information provided by the biospecimen supplier or your own team.
The nature of information captured about each biospecimen is as valuable as the accuracy when accessing quality. Registering comprehensive sample details such as characteristics, collection methods and conditions, previous storage temperatures and movement is essential. Some systems also offer the compiling of associated donor profile, informed consent options and demographic data, such as lifestyle, diseases, diagnosis and treatment history, delivering enhanced insight into biospecimen provenance, their availability for use and potential reliability.
Capturing this information is only the start. The access, maintenance, and augmentation, of specimen data needs to be carefully managed, though not onerous, to ensure quality whilst leaving your team free to carry out their work. Sample Management software or LIMS software provide tools to manage laboratory and biological sample processes and workflows, data auditing, data formatting and security options to restrict access. The approach and functionality available will vary between systems and suppliers.
Questions to help you choose Sample Management Software or LIMS
Understanding what is important to your business and laboratory will help you choose the most appropriate software for your needs. Some initial questions to consider could include:
- which lab tasks, processes, clinical research or analysis do/will you perform?
- what types of biospecimens do you need and what criteria would you use to identify them?
- how do you identify the criteria to exclude biospecimens?
- where do you obtain biological samples, how do you select them and what information is provided with them that you would like to capture and would help you assess suitability?
- how do you manage donor informed consent?
- who needs to know the outcome of your work and how should this information be presented?
- what information do you include in the investigative results/outcome, and how and where is this recorded?
- which other users require access to the biological samples and what can they use them for?
- what do you do with the biological samples once you have completed your work, clinical trial, study or process?
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