Blog Post

Setting the stage for a paperless laboratory


The intelligent analytical laboratory is becoming reality: an automated laboratory where data, methods and processes are seamlessly shared between software applications and analytical instruments. The ultimate goal for a digitalized laboratory is to leverage the power of the data and provide useful information, business intelligence for decision makers sitting at any step of the data life cycle. Fact is that rarely the laboratory reaches the point to feel completely automated and free of paper processes. For a reason or another, instruments integration remains the last item in the project for ever, final users have difficulties to interact with the tool as expected, excels files are still the key asset for decision making, etc.

If the initial decisions were focused on implementing solutions to gain efficiency and shorten time to market, it is recommended to approach such digital transformation projects with clear understanding of the highlighted points below, avoiding frustrations and low return on investment.

Paperless laboratory – business process reengineering

A digital transformation project is the greatest opportunity ever to review processes and look for improvement. The process reengineering phase, far before selecting any informatics tool, is the most relevant moment that will make the difference.

The goal of the digital transformation is to convert laboratory processes and data management activities from paper to computerized systems. Processes should be then reviewed, modified and designed to clearly define how the entire data life cycle will be covered. In the laboratories, the data life cycle goes from the request of analysis to the emission of the certificate of analysis, yet storage and archiving is the very final step. The digitalisation process aims at generating a series of documents that put the laboratory in the position to manage requests and samples and to perform the required tasks.

A crucial step is to analyse the systems that are already part of the process, in order to understand if they are in line with the company requirements, the business needs, the corporate IT strategy or if they need to be upgraded or replaced. From there, processes and systems are mapped to visualize the flow of the data along its life cycle. This goes from the collection of raw data and metadata, management of the data, decision making and archiving.  The best solution could be composed of a unique informatic tool or a combination of systems, from a unique vendor or not whenever those systems can easily be integrated

Paperless laboratory – selection process

The selection of the systems that are required to cover the processes and which are fitting with the IT strategy is a key part of the implementation project. By selecting the informatics tool that suits their needs and the provider that commits for a trustable long-term relationship, the laboratory is creating the conditions for a successful implementation with a constant eye to the four major success factors: cost, time, quality and people.

The project team and scope should be clearly defined, the user requirements properly articulated, the project costs and time estimated and communicated to the company’s management.

In a whole digital transformation project, these 5 steps are the recommended ones when you have reached the moment to seek for the right solution.

If you opt for some consultancy support, these are the steps you should expect us to take you through for selecting your laboratory data management system. It is recommended to involve external resources which may help to design the selection in the most transparent way, adding on market knowledge which is critical to identify the potential vendors for each system.

These have been described in a previous article: “Five steps in the selection of a LIMS”

Paperless laboratory – benefits and costs

The proper implementation of a paperless lab would generate a significant number of benefits for the laboratory itself and for the company. However, it is also important to estimate the costs of the project.

Benefits:

  • Time related benefits: the use of a paperless process reduces significantly the time required to complete the entire process. From 30 to 40% of man hours’ time is estimated be saved for each process
  • Cost related benefits: the paperless processes are reducing the costs of maintaining paper-based process, such as archives.
  • Quality related benefits: these benefits are related to the reduction of failures during the execution of the processes, such as manual transcriptions

Costs:

  • Initial costs – related to the preparation phases of the project, including the selection process
  • Implementation costs – the overall cost of products and services required to implement the system(s)
  • Data migration costs – the costs related to the move of data from other systems already in use in the laboratory
  • Validation costs – the costs to validate the systems
  • Maintenance costs – typically an annual fee requested by the vendor
  • Follow-up costs – the costs required to maintain the system updated according to the changes in business requirements, laboratory processes, etc

Paperless laboratory – system Implementation

Once the stage has been set, it is time for implementing the system. To guarantee a flawless process, formal project management initiatives should be considered during the execution of the activities. The level of project management skills required, may vary according to the complexity of the implementation. They would allow to drive the project to a successful completion according to the defined costs, time and quality. Moreover, proper communication should be established to ensure that the company management and all the stakeholders are informed about the project status.

 

 

Looking for some support on your selection process? Contact us and discover how we can help you.


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