Advantages of Moving Your Lab Quality Management to the Cloud

Using a LIMS to Move Your Lab Quality Management to the Cloud

August 18, 2022

Cloud computing is a revolutionary technology that allows computing services such as databases, software, intelligence, and analytics, to be delivered "in the cloud " and by doing so, provides benefits such as real-time access, flexibility, and economies of scale.

Cloud computing enables laboratories to rent computing infrastructure and hence avoid incurring upfront costs of procuring expensive IT infrastructure and save on maintenance costs. It also allows laboratories to borrow and leverage technical expertise at minimal costs. Some cloud computing service providers ask their customers to only pay for what they use. At the same time, the companies offering cloud computing services can leverage economies of scale by providing the services to several customers and hence bring their costs down.

Importance of a Laboratory Quality Management System (QMS)

Quality management refers to the process of managing a lab's tasks and other activities to ensure that quality standards are met. It involves creating policies and procedures as the building blocks for ensuring that quality standards are maintained.

Total quality management is a framework that involves the laboratory staff and management in the process of ensuring quality management. It aims at efficiency and consistency to drive continuous improvement.

A QMS helps laboratories track quality standards and hence results in efficiency, customer satisfaction, higher productivity, and compliance with regulatory requirements. A modern Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) not only helps manage data but also streamlines the quality management operations of laboratories.

The Essentials of a Laboratory Quality Management System

Failure to implement a quality management system can result in catastrophic results for the laboratory. For example, failing to set standards for specimen storage could result in specimen mix-up, leading to wrong diagnosis and wrong treatment that may jeopardize a patient's health and wellbeing. Therefore, it's necessary to have a solid QMS in place.

Here are the essentials of a laboratory QMS:

  • 1. Organization

    To ensure that quality standards are maintained, a lab needs to organize and direct all its activities toward the quality management system

  • 2. Personnel

    Lab staff plays a key role in implementing the QMS. Therefore, they must be trained adequately and the training should be documented.

  • 3. Equipment

    Lab equipment needs to meet the QMS standards. Dead or malfunctioning equipment needs to be documented and replaced.

  • 4. Inventory Management

    Lab inventory items should only be purchased from suppliers that meet the set QMS standards. The inventory should also be utilized and stored appropriately.

  • 5. Process Control

    This involves monitoring processes such as the collection and handling of samples and data to ensure that internal inefficiencies and errors are eliminated.

  • 6. Information Management

    Laboratories handle a lot of information from patients, customers, and other stakeholders. This information needs to meet standards of accuracy, security, confidentiality, and accessibility. An information management system makes it easy.

  • 7. Documentation and Record Keeping

    Documents such as SOPs and patient records are integral to the QMS process. They need to be available, accessible, accurate, and secure at all times.

  • 8. Occurrence Management

    An "occurrence" refers to an error in the system that the QMS should be able to flag and investigate the cause in order to prevent a recurrence.

  • 9. Assessment

    This is the process of comparing the lab’s quality standards against industry benchmarks. This can be done by lab management, auditors, or external inspectors.

  • 10. Process Improvement

    A QMS should support continuous improvement components such as quality assurance, quality control, and Corrective and Preventive Actions (CAPA).

  • 11. Customer Service

    The primary goal of the lab’s QMS is to enhance customer service and satisfaction. The needs and requirements of customers should therefore be prioritized in the QMS.

  • 12. Safety

    Laboratories handle and process very sensitive information and consequently need to have safeguards in place at all times to ensure security. This includes physical security, IT security, and worker safety.

    These are the important elements that make up a laboratory QMS. Are there any advantages of moving these elements to the cloud?

6 Benefits of Moving Lab Quality Management to the Cloud

Cloud computing has several advantages. Below, we have outlined some that cut across industries:

  • 1. Provides Real-Time Access

    Having your lab's QMS in the cloud allows you to have remote data access at all times. This promotes collaboration, increases the speed of decision-making, and allows faster response to critical issues.

  • 2. Lowers IT Costs

    Cloud computing allows labs to have access to the provider's IT infrastructure and systems. This eliminates high startup and maintenance costs. Thus, cloud technology enables labs to reduce the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and maximize Return on Investment (ROI).

    3. Enables Rapid Deployment and Implementation

    Cloud computing allows immediate deployment and implementation as the infrastructure is already available and ready. Upgrades can also be provided immediately at no extra cost to the lab.

    4. Enables Agility

    Cloud computing provides agility not offered by a traditional LIMS. The latter relies on physical servers whose functionality is restricted to certain locations.

    5. Automatic Software Updates

    Cloud computing offers automatic software updates which would otherwise be time-consuming and labor-intensive. This reduces operational vulnerabilities and inefficiencies.

    6. Data Backup and Recovery

    Laboratories store huge amounts of sensitive data which need to be preserved. While remote storage is susceptible to damage, in-the-cloud storage supports data backup to different storage sites and hence ensures the safety of your data.

    Cannabis testing laboratories are subject to very strict regulations that involve different stakeholders; growers, testing labs, and regulatory authorities. Cloud computing allows these labs to share information instantly with all the involved stakeholders. Clinical laboratories handle very sensitive information. Cloud computing enhances the security of this information.

Moving Your Lab Quality Management to the Cloud is a Win-Win

Cloud computing allows laboratories to minimize their IT costs while leveraging technical expertise from the provider. Laboratories can enjoy real-time access to their QMS, collaborate with other team members, and benefit from instant deployment and software upgrades. The QMS is also backed up and secure in the cloud. On the other hand, cloud computing providers enjoy economies of scale by providing this service to several laboratories. A modern cloud-based Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) enables laboratories to not only manage data in the cloud but also streamline Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) processes.



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