September 14, 2022
A Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) is a laboratory software that helps automate sample and data management and also streamlines lab processes and facilitates integration with other systems. A modern cloud-based LIMS allows a lab to generate numerous concise and professional reports that can be used to guide the lab’s decision-making process. However, one needs to understand how to make the generated data and metadata actionable so as to derive the most value from the LIMS.
Here are six LIMS reporting tips to make your data actionable.
A LIMS generates different kinds of reports from the data imported into it. Here is a breakdown of the most important ones that you should look for in a LIMS:
This type of report combines different lab inputs, such as the number of samples registered, tests carried out, and turnaround time (TAT), for comparative analysis. Analysis reports include test analytics reports and overall TAT reports.
There are numerous types of reports produced by a LIMS, and they depend on the unique needs of a lab. The operational reports include reports such as completed tests, approved results, canceled results, lab performance results, and inventory reports among others.
Financial reports are very important as they help a lab to keep track of the day-to-day revenues and expenditures. Financial reports generated from a LIMS include daily collections, physicians’ revenues, bill settlements, and pending bills among others.
LIMS reports have traditionally been generated on-demand. This means that the systems administrator pre-configures templates and the lab staff members can populate the templates with fresh data and generate new reports. The good thing about this type of report is consistency. On the flip side, this type of report is rather rigid. Some LIMS allows flexibility through ad hoc reporting. This enables lab managers to customize reports by allowing them to add necessary elements to suit regulatory and customer requirements. However, the system administrator needs to ensure that no data corruption or misrepresentation occurs in the process.
A LIMS can also generate scheduled reports at regular time intervals or based on pre-configured metrics. For example, a lab manager may want to keep track of the lab's performance at a weekly or monthly interval. The LIMS will generate such a report based on the scheduled time intervals and automatically send out the report to the lab manager and other concerned persons.
The dashboard of a LIMS is often an underutilized resource because most people do not understand the power that can be harnessed from real-time data visualization. Role-specific dashboards, for example, can be tailored to display Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) at a glance and hence help ensure that all lab activities are goal oriented. A LIMS dashboard can be configured to display all critical parameters that must be monitored constantly. For example, it may display the samples in a lab and at what stage of processing they are in. It may also display lab inventory, inventory items that are on the verge of depletion, and staff training records.
A key challenge with the LIMS dashboard is data overload especially when the data has been derived from several complex records generated over time. It is critical to always refresh the dashboard so that it displays the current data at all times.
A LIMS can be configured to send out alerts when certain conditions are met or exceeded. However, alerts need to be well planned to avoid what is known as "alarm fatigue", a common occurrence in healthcare. If you've been to a hospital, you should be familiar with the incessant beeping of alarms that mostly go unattended. The same can happen when a LIMS is configured to send out too many alerts in the form of system notifications, emails, or text messages. It may be more efficient and productive to configure alerts to be sent out to specific people, for example, lab managers, or concerned staff members.
Since a LIMS is the data center for a lab, it's important to have it integrated with other systems such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, Quality Management System (QMS), and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, among others. Integrating the LIMS with third-party data analysis tools can facilitate prompt downstream analysis and reporting that is instrumental for decision-making. Centralized data management will ensure consistency and make the data more actionable.
You might have the best LIMS in the market, but if you fail to optimize it and make the data actionable, it will all be a waste. Making LIMS data actionable calls for several strategies. First, you need to understand the types of reports a LIMS generates and how and when to use each. You also need to understand how and when to set alerts. A LIMS dashboard can be configured to keep track of all the important parameters that should be within your reach at a glance. Lastly, make use of system interfacing to improve the performance of your LIMS and generate consolidated reports.