Like most laboratories, your standard operating procedures (SOPs) are probably well-documented and stored in a centralised document repository. Your researchers, lab managers and other lab personnel may also have attended training sessions on your SOPs. But how can you tell if your team have been accurately following them and your samples have been processed in accordance with them? Using the appropriate technology to support your laboratory sample processes will not only help you determine this but enforce it.
Laboratory sample management software provides process traceability
Some Laboratory Sample Management systems, like Achiever Medical, include standard pre-built sample processes such as checking biological specimens into lab storage, sample aliquoting and creating derivatives. In addition, Achiever Medical also automatically captures an audit trail of all activity carried out on your biological samples. Therefore, the system can provide comprehensive traceability throughout the sample’s journey. This includes a complete, navigable sample family tree when samples are split.
Are your laboratory sample processes fit for purpose?
When you begin implementing Laboratory Information Management software, some software vendors will include a review of your existing laboratory processes as part of their project approach.
During this analysis stage, it is important to involve your researchers who use (or will be using) the software regularly and who understand your business requirements. This may be achieved through separate internal sessions without the software vendors present. These sessions could uncover some surprising and welcome insights into how your team actually works. This is also an important step in engaging your users and helps with user adoption of the system.
Additionally, your software vendor should also challenge and question your processes. This will help to ensure they are efficient and delivering what you expect.
Try to keep an open-mind. If the software’s standard workflows deliver the same result, but in a different way to which you would normally work, consider whether this is acceptable or even preferable. There is no point re-inventing the wheel as it will no doubt come at a cost. However, if it is something essential, a configurable Laboratory Sample Management system will be able to manage this. Though it will require clear definition in order to be successful.
Highlighting missing or incomplete lab sample processes
As you start to review your processes and understand what is available in the sample management software, you may identify missing processes or gaps in your existing processes. It is important for you to acknowledge those gaps and close them before implementing the processes in the software.
Do not automate your lab processes for automation’s sake
Inevitably there are always some processes and workflows that should not be managed by the software. When using technology to support your lab processes, you must always bear this in mind. The aim is to not replace your researchers or lab staff but to assist them in carrying out their work.
A final thought on using technology to support your laboratory sample processes
Technology is a great enabler, when implemented and used correctly. Using technology to support your lab processes can deliver efficiencies. It can also assist in compliance and allow your researchers to spend more time in the lab and less time on administrative tasks. However, while technology plays an important role in improving your lab life, it will only succeed if your team use it. Therefore, involving your team and ensuring it works for them from the outset will encourage user adoption and optimise success.