Benefits of Laboratory Information Systems

Dr Th Dhabali Singh MD
The increasing demand for quality healthcare services ensures that clinical diagnostic laboratories are always looking for tools that can improve their efficiency and minimise costs. Although the concept of Laboratory Information System (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.
A Laboratory Information System is a software that allows the laboratory to effectively manage samples and associated data. By using an LIS, the lab can automate workflows, integrate instruments, and manage samples and associated information. Additionally, one could produce reliable test results more quickly and can track data over various platforms for more streamlined operations.
Considered as an integral component of 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.
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 industry, including fully integrated LISs.
With the emergence of evidence-based medicine, the importance of accurate diagnostic results in patient care is critical resulting in increased pressure on labs to perform efficiently.
Replacing human tasks with technology improves performance significantly specially in the area of healthcare and is responsible for fast gaining popularity of the LIS.
Some important benefits if the implementation of the LIS are:
TRACK SAMPLES IN REAL TIME – The LIS automate the sample handling processes as soon as the sample is collected and bar-coded, allowing the technicians to track samples in real time.
SAVE TIME –One of the most time-consuming processes is the pre-analytical phase that starts from the registration phase. The LIS systematise the workflow and saves time in various ways.
FOCUS ON CRITICAL REPORTS –Pathologists and doctors approving reports can view reports that have highlighted abnormal values at the time of authentication. The anomalies could be assessed further for better accuracy. Also, there are features in some LISs for auto-approval that automatically authenticates only those reports that have normal values. Here, only reports with abnormal values are sent to the doctors for evaluation. This saves considerable time and workload.
MANAGE LOGISTICS EFFICIENTLY –The efficient logistics management solution in LIS assigns unique barcodes to each sample and notifies the processing centres as soon as the samples are registered at the collection centre or branch, making it possible to allocate resources, reagents and material even before the samples reach the processing centre.
ELIMINATES HUMAN ERROR –Labs can improve efficiency by integrating lab equipment and devices on a single secure platform. This allows data to automatically transfer from the device to the LIS, eliminating laborious manual effort, saving time and reducing human error.
SECURE DATABASE –LIS helps to centralise access and storage of quality control data and patient’s test records for retrieval and data analysis. These are stored in secure servers that are connected via the LIS.
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.
The implementation of an LIS can take anywhere from a month to a few years, depending upon the size of the laboratory and the number of patient samples handled every day. A standard medium-to-large laboratory will have haematology, clinical chemistry, immunology, microbiology, serology, cytology, histopathology sections. They may also have molecular diagnostics, cytogenetics, DNA diagnostics 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.
The writer is Senior Consultant Pathologist & Managing Director, BABINA Diagnostics, Imphal