Being able to evidence where your samples have come from, what’s happened to them and where they are now is important for regulatory compliance. But that’s not the only reason why you should be auditing your lab data.
Being able to see when a sample record was created and who updated the record last allows you to see how old your samples are and if anyone is using them. Tracking this information in a spreadsheet is difficult. And even if you do manage it, it takes time and the accuracy of the data is questionable.
A laboratory information management system (LIMS) takes care of auditing for you. Automatically updating the audit trail as you add or modify data in the system. But auditing is not just limited to tracking creation and changed dates.
Your audit data can give you valuable insight to help you improve efficiency and quality. What’s more, it can increase confidence in your results and support your decision making. Even helping you to choose which samples are best to use for which type of work.
1. Improving your productivity
Most LIMS will have an audit for when a record is last created or changed and include the name of the person who performed the update. In some advanced systems you can also track exactly what data has changed including before and after values. This allows you to see details of the individual changes that were made.
A LIMS like Achiever Medical also audits critical lab processes. So, you can know exactly when you completed an action against a sample such as creating aliquots or checking it in or out of storage.
At its simplest level this enables you to see which users are working with your samples, which processes they’re completing and, importantly, how many they’re doing.
Taking this a step further, by analysing this level of audit data, you can monitor the time it takes you to complete specific processes. You can then use this information to identify potential productivity and efficiency gains.
2. Helping you assess sample viability by auditing lab data
Freezing, thawing, freezing, thawing … for some samples this process can really impact their quality. And restrict what you can use them for.
When carrying out research you need to know as much information as possible about every sample you’re working with.
The time to storage is very important for most frozen samples. So, monitoring the time taken between receipting the sample and using it can help you identify samples that may not have been stored optimally.
If you know how often the sample has been checked into and out of storage you can understand more about its potential viability. For some samples auditing the thaw count allows you to decide how best to use them.
What’s more by seeing the analysis and processing that you’ve completed on a sample you’re better able to understand any potential impact this might have to your future usage of that sample. Plus, it helps you to identify whether you’re working with the original sample or a derivative.
3. Increasing confidence in your results
Knowing how you’re using your samples enables you to confirm that you’re managing things in line with your SOPs. And by auditing your samples you can see their status at each step of the process.
Armed with this data you’re in a strong position to accurately – and confidently – repeat any tests. Having repeatable tests and reproducible results gives you – and your stakeholders – confidence in your outcomes and results.
4. Improving the efficiency of your resources
You can obtain a wealth of information by analysing your lab auditing data. From how long it takes you to receipt and check-in your samples through to highlighting samples that have been sitting in storage for long periods. It also can show you whether certain days are busier than others or if you have any potential personnel or process bottlenecks.
Armed with this information you can make sure that you’re making the best use of your resources. This might include:
- training other members of the team to spread the load and reduce bottlenecks.
- changing processes or when you carry out those processes to increase efficiency.
- making the most of your storage space by using or disposing of ‘older’ unused samples.
5. Supporting your decision-making process
You often know when something isn’t working quite as it should, but you just can’t put your finger on it.
When you’re capturing data in a spreadsheet it’s impossible to gain any meaningful insight into each record. For example, you don’t know when an actual row of sample data was added or updated, let alone understand anything about the sample and its associated donor’s journey.
Without this background data you can’t be sure if whoever added the information was following your SOPs or whether they had approval to carry out that process. Or worse still whether they’d followed the appropriate ethics and consent guidelines.
In Achiever Medical, for example, you can map your critical lab processes into the system. What’s more you can add in approval steps at key points in the process. The system is automatically auditing this lab data so you can see what’s been completed and who approved each key stage of the process.
Having the data to support your ‘gut feeling’ can help you highlight to your team and stakeholders where things may need to change. Plus, give you the information needed to track the impact of any updates you implement.
A final thought about the reasons for auditing your lab data
Auditing your lab data delivers valuable benefits above providing you with useful evidence for compliance. You can use the information you capture to help you identify improvements as well as increasing confidence in your data and outcomes.
Just a word of caution – don’t audit everything. This could potentially have a negative impact on your system performance. What’s more, you’ll just end up swamped with data and possibly not use any of it.