Sample Management in Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS)
Apr 29

Sample Management in Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS)

For many labs and Biobanks, the main reason for implementing a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) is to improve the way they manage their samples.

If you’re using your samples in research, you need to have confidence in the accuracy of your data. Similarly, you want to have confidence in the repeatability of any tests so you can create reproducible results. How you manage your samples and record any corresponding data has a significant impact on these.

Sample management is more than knowing where your samples are stored …

Sample management is an integral part of your lab and Biobank’s quality control and management processes. Put simply it’s the processes you follow when you’re working with samples, for example, your Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). It covers all aspects of the sample journey from initial sample registration through to disposal.

The aim is to make sure everyone is working to the same standards. And by instilling consistency and standardisation across your lab processes you could significantly improve efficiency and quality.

If you can accurately trace each step of a sample’s journey, what happened when and why, then you can better assess its viability for use in research. This can help you make sure you’re choosing and using the optimum samples.

Similarly, when carrying out research if you know what you did, in what order, using which set of samples and characteristics, then you’re better able to rerun any experiments. Plus, you might need to find the original samples you used.

Finally, you need your data to be secure and protected. This is especially important if you’re holding personal identifiable information (PII) against your samples.

Sample management in a LIMS

So how does a LIMS help you improve the way you’re managing your samples?

Core sample management functionality will vary between lab information systems (LIS). Most will provide mechanisms for registering and storing samples. Some advanced systems will also allow you to manage detailed sample and donor profiling information. This could include holding donor informed consent. Plus, these systems usually have some inbuilt data formatting rules and standards so everyone is entering data consistently and in a standard way.

Many also have predefined workflows to manage critical lab processes and activities. Achiever Medical, for example, comes with standard processes to create aliquots and derivatives. Plus, there are also workflows to securely share and dispatch samples. And as you follow these processes the software prompts you to enter any mandatory information and automatically completes standard data. As a result, you’re following the same processes and entering critical data at the right time.

Crucially, with each process, Achiever Medical automatically creates an audit trail against each sample to record who did what and when. Giving you complete traceability and a chain of custody.

What’s more, if you have a configurable LIMS you can amend any predefined workflows, or create new ones, to meet your individual requirements.

Systems like Achiever Medical also enable you to link your protocol and SOP documents against the corresponding study. So you can check any standards in the one system.

Finally, many systems have security and authentication options to manage user access to system areas. Achiever Medical takes this to another level by enabling you to manage user access to data including PII. Helping to protect any sensitive data from unauthorised access.

Benefits offered by sample management in lab information software

By providing sample management functionality a LIMS can transform the way your lab works by helping you:

  • Reduce the risk of losing samples or samples expiring by knowing where your samples are stored
  • Assess sample viability by knowing how your samples have been collected, shipped, used and stored
  • Improve efficiency by saving you time sourcing and locating samples for use
  • Meet regulatory compliance by using samples in line with informed consent restrictions
  • Increase confidence in results by storing and processing your samples in line with standard operating procedures (SOPs)
  • Improve process, sample and data quality

A final thought about sample management

Sample management is more than sample tracking. It’s the processes you follow when handling samples throughout each stage of their journey.

For confidence in your data and in any results, you want to know your samples have been stored correctly and processed consistently. However, it’s important to remember that just because you’re consistently following a process doesn’t mean it’s efficient. The process itself has to be efficient and suited to your needs in the first instance.

But once you’ve sorted your processes a LIMS can help you implement them and make sure everyone is consistently following them. What’s more it can give you the evidence to prove it in the form of an electronic audit trail.

Related topics

  1. ‘Make Every Sample Matter’ – How LIMS helps increase the chances of using samples in research
  2. Data Management in Laboratory Information Management Systems
  3. Biobanking Software and LIMS Usability and User Interface
  4. Biobanking and LIMS Software User Experience
  5. Collaborative Laboratory Information Management Systems
  6. Using a LIMS to Remove Data Silos in your Biobank and Lab
  7. The Role of Achiever Medical LIMS in Supporting Disease-Specific Biobanks

About The Author

Sharon Williams has over 20 years’ experience of helping businesses successfully implement Sample Management Software and CRM systems. Appreciating that the software will deliver significant business change and improvements, Sharon guides businesses to help optimise these benefits. This includes advice on how to obtain user buy-in, evaluating and redefining existing business processes and how to gain a better understanding of their data to provide invaluable insight and inform business decisions.