Dr Th Dhabali Singh MD
With the emergence of evidence-based medicine, the importance of accurate results of diagnostic tests in patient care and disease management is critical. The consequence is that laboratories are under constant pressure to perform efficiently and are always looking for tools that can improve their efficiency and minimise costs. With advances in medical technology, the routine human tasks are getting replaced by machines in the area of healthcare. Among the recent innovations that has gained fast popularity in healthcare, especially among laboratories is the Laboratory Information Systems (LIS).
Laboratory Information Systems and modern clinical laboratories: Although the concept of Laboratory Information Systems (LIS) is not new, advances in technology have made them more sophisticated than ever before, offering a host of clinical and non-clinical applications, customisable configurations, web-based connectivity, scalability and modules that offer data handling for the most cutting-edge laboratory techniques and testing.
Considered as one of the most important components in a modern diagnostic laboratory, a successful LIS implementation not only ensures effective control and management of resources but also increase in productivity, faster turnaround times, greater data accuracy, accurate statistical records, etc.
Benefits of using a LIS software: Most commercial LISs provide solutions with very similar functionalities. Each clinical laboratory is, however, unique and so are the needs of the laboratory’s LIS. A number of different technological approaches have been developed to meet the varied needs of the heterogeneous nature of the clinical laboratory sector, including fully integrated LISs.No two laboratories share the exactly same workflow; while similarities may exist, each laboratory has its unique requirements and its way of doing things which are influenced by work culture and management style.
· Save time: A very crucial component of the work-flow in a lab is the pre-analytical phase, which incidentally is also the most time consuming. From patient registration, selection of tests to be done, billing, registration of samples, registration of samples from collection centres, sample barcoding, uploading patient history and other details, sorting of samples for sending to different lab sections, prioritisation of tests as per the request and nature of test (emergency cases, for instance), receiving of samples in the lab, etc. are all rigorous processes and are most prone to errors. A good LIS will have a unique batchsheet-based sample tracking system, facilitated by unique identification numbers and barcodes assigned to each sample. LIS saves time and makes everything simple.
· Tracking samples in real time: There are modules in the LIS that automates the sample handling process after the sample is collected from patients with the barcode system. This allows the technicians to track samples in real time.
· Helps manage logistics efficiently: As each sample is barcoded, LIS allows the technicians and other laboratory personnel to check the status of the tests done and the stage of completion. Once registration is done, all collection centres including the processing centre are in the loop for dissemination of information in real time about the status of the processes. Patients are alerted when tests are done through SMSs and if required, the results are automatically sent to the patients via e-mail.
· Eliminates human error: LIS integrates lab equipment and devices on a single platform. This interfacing ensures automatic data transfer between the machines and the LIS (bi-directional flow), thereby eliminating the manual steps, saving time and reducing human errors.
An LIS in a laboratory results in proper adherence to turn-around-time (TAT), reduction in labelling errors, reduction in missed orders, and significant reduction in transcription errors. Thus, LIS results in the overall improvement and efficiency of a laboratory.
Future of LIS in medical diagnostics sector: A standard medium-to-large laboratory will have haematology, clinical chemistry, immunology, microbiology, serology, cytology, histopathology sections. They may also have molecular diagnostics, cytogenetics, and imaging laboratories. Each laboratory type has its unique workflow and that workflow, particularly in specialty areas like molecular diagnostics, place unique demands on the LIS. In addition, these laboratories may be involved in outsourcing of samples to other reference labs and this further complicates the LIS functions and needs. A desirable aspect of an LIS is a level of customisability that allows the LIS to adapt to the workflow of each laboratory. With growing systemisation of laboratories, rise in the number of clinical laboratories, growth in the pharmaceutical industry, growth in the biotech industry and the importance laid on laboratory accreditation will propel the future of LIS adoption in most laboratories on a large scale.
(The writer is Managing Director and Senior Consultant Pathologist, BABINA Diagnostics, Imphal)
Dr Th Dhabali Singh MD