For your Biobank to be effective you need researchers to be regularly requesting your tissue samples. This means you need to make them aware of your Biobank and what you have to offer. You’re competing with other Biobanks – both academic and commercial. In order to stand out from the crowd you need to be clear on why you’re different as well as making sure your Biobank has a good reputation. So how can you do this when your resources and finances are already stretched. This is where having effective Biobank Information Management software (BIMS) can really help.
1. Register with a directory – and keep your sample inventory up to date
Your first step when raising your profile should be to register your Biobank with a national registry such as the UKCRC. It’s easy to register and many funders now insist that you do. So, if you want funding, it’s an easy choice.
In addition, it’s worth noting that, even if you’re already registered with the UKCRC you should look at the level of detail it now accepts. As now you can automatically upload tissue data (numbers, types, formats, donor types, etc). Plus, the UKCRC directory has search capabilities that allow researchers to search for Biobanks with specific types of tissues. The result is that its register is now so much more than a “Yellow Pages of Biobanks”.
In order to take best advantage of this new capability, you need to make sure the details of your holdings are as up-to-date as possible. Getting this information together can be difficult and time-consuming. This is where Biobank Information Management software (BIMS) can really help. Some leading Biobank Information Management software systems provide integration with the UKCRC Tissue Directory, enabling you to automatically upload your sample holdings as often as you like. Achiever Medical, for example, supports these automatic uploads so as soon as your tissue samples are available, they’re contributing to your Biobank’s ranking in targeted searches. Plus, you choose what data and how often you want to transfer it. In addition, you can continue to use your own terminology as when Achiever Medical sends your data to the directory it dynamically translates it to use the UKCRC’s standard definitions.
2. Make it easy for researchers to view and select from your sample holdings
A public-facing portal that gives researchers direct access to an anonymised “shop window” for your Biobank is a fantastic resource. And it can really boost the number of tissue samples you are being asked for. Some modern Biobank Information Management Software systems have an integrated portal that allows external researchers to view your sample holdings. Achiever Medical, for example, allows you to tag sets of samples as available for request. These selected tissue samples automatically appear on the researcher portal along with anonymous donor profile information, if available. All this means that the Achiever Medical portal enables researchers to really focus their tissue sample selection – choosing not just based on sample type but also detailed donor profile data.
Once researchers have identified their required tissue samples, they can make a request that also can be tracked through the online portal. Plus, if researchers cannot find the required tissue samples, they can make a prospective sample request. By capturing and reviewing this information it may lead you to identify potential new products or services.
3. Standardise how you process your tissue sample applications
Ensuring you are publishing your up-to-date sample holdings and making it easy for researchers to search and request your tissue samples is only the beginning. Equally as important is how you fulfil those requests. In today’s world customers expect fast-turnaround times and regular communication. You need to make sure your service delivery is meeting or, even better, exceeding your customers’ expectations. So, once you have received a request for samples you need to get onto fulfilling and dispatching that request quickly.
Some Biobank Information Management Software systems have in-built tissue sample request approval processes in place along with dispatch workflows. These help you consistently manage your fulfilment and dispatch process.
Achiever Medical also allows you to set up automated notification emails to alert interested users when you add particular samples/donors to your collection or notify your team when new applications are awaiting approval. In addition, it has a dashboard that allows you to monitor your applications alongside the resulting sample dispatches.
By consistently providing quality products and a quality service to researchers they are much more likely to recommend you and speak positively about your Biobank to others. And the best publicity is through word of mouth!
4. Use CRM functionality to target researchers and generate interest
Advanced Biobank Information Management Software includes basic Customer Relationship Management (CRM) features that allow you to record institutes, addresses and contacts. Also, you can manage interactions and communications between your team and those external parties. These might be, for example, your collaborators or tissue users. This functionality is useful for managing and auditing whenever you receive applications as well as when you dispatch samples and receipt is acknowledged. All these tools allow you to record the entire publish-request-shipment process that not only assists your Biobank processing but also helps you to meet Human Tissue Act (HTA) compliance.
In addition, if your Biobanking software provides you with enhanced CRM functionality, you can even generate targeted campaigns to notify your customers/partners of the tissues that you currently hold. You could send these as traditional mailings or, more efficiently, as automated emails. This allows you to proactively drum up interest in the tissue samples that aren’t subject to active portal requests. Achiever Medical gives you all this in the core product “out of the box”.
Keeping your sample tissue holdings cycling regularly is a sign of an effective Biobank. As a result, this helps your Biobank cover its costs, strongly support research and is a prime candidate for further funding.
5. Measure return on investment for continuous improvement
You should always be striving for continuous improvement. To stay successful, you have to remain relevant and continue to meet, and exceed, researchers demand. This is where BIMS can help.
You may be thinking BIMS is expensive. But consider how much time, money and resource you could save through streamlining your processes – or what it might allow you to do that you can’t do currently. Start by understanding and measuring where you are today and what is taking up your time. Be honest and measure everything. You can then use these before figures to compare after you have implemented your Biobank Information Management software. And remember to keep measuring!
Also, you can start to identify trends and analyse your data more effectively which can lead to new products and services. For example, what could you change if you knew:
- what are your most requested tissue samples?
- do you have any tissue sample requests you cannot fulfil? Why?
- which tissue samples have been sat in storage the longest?
- how much time does it take to approve a tissue sample request? Does this vary by tissue sample type, format, etc?
- what is the average duration from request to receipt? How does this compare to the maximum time?
- how many prospective sample requests are you receiving?
- where are you receiving the most requests from?
- which courier are you using and how often?
- are your storage containers reaching capacity?
- how many issues, complaints or positive feedback have you received about your Biobank products and services?
In Achiever Medical, for example, our interactive, real-time dashboards show you the flow of applications and tissue samples across your Biobank. So, you can start using this information to improve your services and product offerings.
A final thought on how Biobank Information Management Software can help raise the profile of your Biobank
Ultimately, the right BIMS will help you to improve the quality of your products and, equally as important, your services. It does this in several ways:
- making sure your published samples are up to date.
- making it easy for researchers to find and request your samples.
- streamlining your processes and making sure they are consistent, so you are meeting expectations.
- regularly communicating with your customers – and proactively communicating with them.
- continuously measuring performance for improvements in service and product quality.
As a result, researchers will want to continue working with you, and are more likely to recommend you. All of which helps to raise your profile in a very competitive marketplace.