Technology has brought a paradigm shift in all fields of life. Its substantial impact on medical science, healthcare, genetic research, and the pharmaceutical industry has helped save lives, discover treatments for lifelong diseases, and improve living conditions for physically or mentally impaired people. From basic diagnostic machines to hospital and laboratory management systems, artificial limbs, and AI-powered diagnostics and treatment, technology sits at the foundation of healthcare systems and medical science today.
The use of IT in laboratories has entirely transformed the way core operations were previously performed. Process automation and machine integration have allowed laboratories to streamline testing procedures. Continue reading to explore how technology has transformed laboratory management.
Understanding Laboratory Information Systems
A laboratory information system (LIS) is a specialized system that stores and manages medical and industrial information of clinical laboratories and carries out critical laboratory processes.
It aims at automating most of the laboratory processes, including requesting tests, managing and sending samples, data reporting, test scheduling, payment collection, and result generation. LIS stores, tracks, and updates patients’ clinical and anatomic pathology details and uses this data for future reference. LIS is integrated with central information systems like hospital management systems, electronic health records, and online banking systems.
Ways IT is Transforming Laboratory Management
By effectively using information technology, laboratories can significantly improve lab management and patient services by eliminating redundancies, streamlining processes, and providing single-click customer service. Here are ten ways IT is transforming laboratory management:
1. Ease of Access
Recent technology advancements have provided healthcare facilities with a significant edge. Healthcare centers and clinical laboratories now use centralized cloud-based lab information systems through private clouds or third-party cloud services and leverage this technology to synchronize patient data from multiple locations. The ease of access cloud technology brings makes it possible to obtain required information from any device and improve workflow efficiency. Cloud-based LIS helps laboratories reduce hardware installation and maintenance costs and ensures maximum data security and minimum service downtime. Lab owners manage all their lab facilities from a unified platform while operating remotely.
2. Scalability of Operations
As laboratories expand their operations to accommodate unanticipated surges in patient testing, new infrastructure is required to adapt rapidly to accommodate these changes. Software solution companies that provide cloud-based LIS systems work on a pay-as-you-go model. Laboratories can scale up or down their operations easily without implementing high-priced infrastructure like additional servers, middleware, hardware, etc.
3. Improved Accuracy
The majority of mistakes in laboratories are due to clerical errors during sample collection, tests, and reporting. Digital processes reduce human errors and improve accuracy by automating repetitive tasks. Each test provides and validates reference ranges at the time of data entry to reduce the chance of entering superficial values.
4. Track Samples in Real Time
When a sample is taken from the patient, the patient record is updated, and the sample is bar-coded. Lab Information Systems (LIS) automates the sample handling process in which the samples are personally identifiable and traceable, allowing technicians to track samples in real-time. This helps minimize the possibility of misplacing, interchanging, and wasting patient samples.
5. Unified Platform
Lab information systems provide a unified platform for all disciplines of laboratories. Various subdepartments of laboratories are connected to a centralized application interface and back-end database. For this reason, the overall progress of a single request that contains multiple blood works, ultrasounds, and anatomic pathology can be tracked and monitored through a single platform. Unified platforms allow instant and seamless information sharing and cross-discipline analytics.
6. Focus on Critical Reports
Due to process automation and digital data entry, the integrated lab information system can effectively separate critical reports from normal ones. This helps staff prioritize critical reports for doctor’s approval and can save substantial time and effort. The level of urgency mentioned for each report also helps laboratories speed up the testing process. Information systems can generate alerts and notifications for tests that require immediate attention.
7. Compliance with Medical Standards
Integrated information systems are developed according to medical standards. Such systems ensure compliance with government standards and regulations established for patient care and sample handling and disposal.
8. Seamless Integration
Lab information systems are fully integrated with other technology deployed in hospitals and laboratories. Testing machines integrated with LIS can send result data directly to patient profiles and update test request records.
Patient medical history, pathological records, personal information, and test results are integrated with hospital management systems, central electronic health records, social security numbers, and other subsystems implemented inside a health facility. LIS also facilitates online payments through online banking channels and uses the latest security protocols to ensure customer data security during a payment transaction over the internet. These intelligent systems integrate seamlessly with laboratory machines and systems outside the organization.
9. Reduced Registration Time
Sample registration and transfer process in conventional laboratories is one of the most time-consuming procedures where the staff must register the samples before sending them from the collection center. The sample is then re-registered at processing centers. A reliable and efficient lab information system can greatly reduce the processing time by following a batch-based sample mechanism where an entire batch of samples is bar-coded for transport purposes and tracked accordingly. Moreover, the lengthy process of manually entering patient data can be easily eliminated by integrating central health records and retrieving pre-saved information.
10. Instant Report Generation and Distribution
A centralized system helps track patient samples and reports and facilitates easy report preparation based on built-in samples. Lab staff can generate report statistics in a single click and send them to patients and healthcare professionals through a unified interface or computer-generated emails and text messages without delay. Most automated systems don’t require approval from staff and distribute reports as soon as the concerned doctor approves them.
Technology has brought a landscape shift in the healthcare industry. With rapid advancements and the implementation of innovative technology, laboratories can streamline their processes to provide more value to patients, improve accuracy, and enhance the efficacy of laboratory services. Before adopting a LIS system, laboratories must examine the system’s long-term value and ensure that the information system meets the fundamental demands. More laboratories should embrace technology to scale their operations, improve efficiency, and maximize profitability.