Spreadsheets vs LIMS

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September 08, 2017

Healthcare sector is undoubtedly one of the largest and fastest evolving industries in the world as per the current day scenario. Contributing to this fact, its primary components such as hospitals, biobanks, clinical research & testing laboratories, etc., receive huge volumes of data on a daily basis. For instance, biobanks and clinical research labs see hundreds of thousands of samples flowing in and out of the labs. Tracking a sample and managing its metadata, besides maintaining the associated patient information, throughout the various operational workflows is never an easy task. On the other hand, diagnostics, and testing labs of various industries such as environmental, food & beverages, cannabis testing, etc. receive a massive influx of analyte testing orders for various samples. These labs conduct several qualitative and quantitative tests on a daily basis. It is highly important for these laboratories to keep a record of the samples used in the test, manage multiple test runs and test results that help in making informed decisions.

As a consequence, all these laboratories are under increasing pressure to enhance lab efficiency, deliver faster & uncompromising quality result to clients and thereby attain maximum return on investment. This pressure has eventually led to the development of computerized tools from the least efficient paper based systems. These tools include spreadsheets, custom in-house developed data management tools, etc. Working with the spreadsheets has definitely improved the sample management ability of the laboratories in terms of organizing data where tabular lists are built, stored and shared. However, spreadsheets require extensive manual data entry which is generally time-consuming and error-prone, making data retrieval difficult. Moreover, laboratories in the healthcare sector need to operate under stringent regulatory guidelines. This is difficult to accomplish using spreadsheets. On the other hand, the in-house developed data management tools, lack the flexibility to accommodate the changing needs of a laboratory and incur heavy investments in customization.

A LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System) helps laboratories manage all the data in a single database, securely, by following industry-specific regulatory guidelines. LIMS can accommodate large volumes of data and thereby reduce the risk of transcriptional errors. This in-turn results in accurate and high-quality data. Besides, LIMS built on the cloud platform, leverage the distinct advantages of cloud technology. A cloud-based LIMS enables real-time collaboration between laboratories, other partners and clients across geographical barriers. Not just that, it is designed with appropriate data security and audit capabilities with date and time stamps assuring security of data. With a cloud-based LIMS, users need not worry about data loss as the data is hosted on mirror servers located in different geographical locations. Regular data back-ups are taken to enable data recovery. It eliminates the need for any IT infrastructure or personnel, thereby minimizing infrastructural and operational costs. With growing businesses and dynamically changing requirements, laboratories and other healthcare bodies can manage their scaled-up operations and data efficiently using cloud-based LIMS. While there are many cloud-based LIMS available in the automation market on a monthly or annual subscriptions, free LIMS software (for instance FreeLIMS) are also available that can serve the purpose at no cost.



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