Moving from manual, paper-based processes to automation and digital integration of instruments, data, and employees is a positive move for modern laboratories, although it often isn’t easy to implement. Choosing the right LIMS software for your lab can have many effects on its productivity and overall savings in time and money.
Many find difficulties sorting through different LIMS system providers and choosing the most appropriate for their operations. You must select a LIMS software that best aligns with your business, IT infrastructure, and all stakeholders’ workflows.
In this article, we will show you how to choose the best LIMS software for your lab and all the factors you need to consider in doing so. Before discussing the criteria you need to examine in determining LIMS software, we need to discuss what you should know about your lab before considering your options.
Understanding The Current Processes of Your Lab
Before you can access the various LIMS software offerings, you need to access your lab’s current state so you can fully understand what you’re looking for. An As-Is lab process is an in-depth evaluation of all your lab processes that will expose all of the bottlenecks in your lab processes and expose all the opportunities for efficiency that will positively affect your lab operations.
This step can help dive into your current lab processes highlight steps that add value and those that don’t. You can remove the unnecessary steps in this process to avoid complex challenges when adding a LIMS system. Putting software on poor methods will only compound the already existing problems.
Identify Your LIMS Requirements
We cannot overstate the importance of capturing all your requirements accurately. Your needs will determine a lot of your steps moving forward, and without this step, there is a big chance you might choose the wrong LIMS software, especially if it is a first-time purchase. It isn’t appropriate to decide the LIMS with the highest list of features or looks like the best LIMS as it could lead to a waste of money.
In developing your requirements, you should consider harmonising your workflows or adjusting them for improved operations. You should also know that sometimes this isn’t a one-and-done process as you may discover more requirements while you’re implementing. Usually, you can add these requirements in your selected LIMS, or it might need a bit of configuration.
Factors To Consider When Choosing a LIMS Software
Here are the most critical factors you should check and verify with your requirements before choosing a LIMS solution for your organisation.
Core Features and Functions
Effective LIMS solutions should do more than process and manage your data. It should also be an interactive platform that helps facilitate different laboratory functions and improve overall resource efficiency. LIMS should be end-to-end solutions with capabilities in device interfacing, automation, streamlined workflow pattern, and intuitive reporting tools. Apart from having these capabilities, a configurable, flexible, user-friendly, and reliable system that scales with your business will make you more efficient.
Some of the basic functional requirements a LIMS should have include:
- Resource Management
- Laboratory Test Processing
- Statistical Analysis
- Laboratory Safety and Accident Prevention Techniques
- Ample Tracking
- Test Scheduling
- Report Generation
- Sample Collection Methods
There are three main methods of deploying/implementing LIMS solutions/.
On-Premise: If you want to go the on-premise route, you have to invest in IT infrastructure, networking, power supply, database software, pest control, operating system, and other hardware. When you purchase licences for the servers, you will install them on the servers and share all the information over the network. You need to maintain all the resources in an on-premise setup to keep your lab operations up-to-date and safe. This is a feasible option if you already have a network and server setup; however, you need to factor in additional costs for maintaining and updating hardware in your cost-benefit analysis.
Cloud-Hosted: In this method, you only purchase or develop the software to run your LIMS, and you rent the hardware and other infrastructural resources from a third-party vendor. You host on a remote server in the cloud, but you still have a licence to run and upgrade the software as you desire. It is vital that you critically examine the robustness of your infrastructure at the server-side, as that is key for determining your uptime.
Cloud-Based: This uses the software as a service model (SaaS) where you only pay for the service. You do not need any infrastructure or hardware resources to set this up. You usually pay an annual subscription fee to the vendors offering the cloud services that covers servers, network, and software. All you need to use your LIMS in this scenario is a stable internet connection. We recommend this if you don’t have any overtly specialised operations requiring a custom LIMS.
Some of the Advantages of Cloud LIMS Solutions Include:
- Secure infrastructure
- Instrument data storage for easier auditing processes
- Get notified of future updates when they are available
Allowance For Future Updates
Choosing a LIMS that serves your immediate needs will give you excellent results and significantly improve your efficiency. But it is not uncommon that in the future, they may be new technologies for laboratory information management systems (LIMS) that will be excellent for your laboratory operations and improve the workflow. Therefore, apart from choosing one suited for your present needs, you also have to look at the possibility of updates for a LIMS system.
It might be too late to seek advice on updates or improvements to the LIMS system after implementation. This is why the possibility for future updates should be one of the factors you look for before your selection. Consult with your in-house team for any justification or need for improvements based on future updates or trends in your industry.
Some changes that every LIMS solution should have no problem with implementing include adding more locations, adding a home collection module, policy changes, tie-up with B2Bs, etc. Making sure your LIMS software can support these updates will make your business adapt fast and evolve with technology so you can be at the forefront.
Effective Budget Utilisation
Apart from choosing a solution that matches your budget, the total cost of ownership of your LIMS is more critical than the cost of the entire system. A LIMS software is a long-term investment, and examining only the cost incurred from buying the system is not the correct way to do a benefit-cost analysis or budget for the purchase.
Estimations for LIMS systems should include its price all the resources for deploying, operating, and maintaining the system. It would be best if you also accounted for the time spent using it entirely as expenditure so you can get accurate numbers and make decisions based on that. A cost-effective solution gives a higher return on investment over the medium term.
As a laboratory, it is expected that you will be handling large amounts of data daily, and doing this securely is of utmost importance. Select a LIMS software that can meet all of your data storage and management security needs. The numbers of security layers, encryption capability, and HIPPA compliance are vital factors. Also, the security of your LIMS system is a critical consideration in your audits because of the sensitive nature of the data you handle.
Your LIMS should also have features that only grant access to stakeholders who need to access the system. It should use the principle of least privilege for accessing the data and safeguard all your patient’s information from misuse. You should be able to do this while improving the knowledge level across your organisation about the system and making the lab information accessible to the required departments and personnel globally.
Implementation and Customer Support
Another critical factor in selecting LIMS solutions is the onboarding process. It should be one that seamlessly integrates your operations and staff with the new solution without any drop in performance or efficiency. The vendors must communicate all the onboarding, training, and support processes to understand how your operations/organisation will fare. Ask the LIMS vendors about the time it takes for their onboarding and implementation process.
You should ensure that any option you are considering offers on-sale and post-sale support to resolve any challenges throughout implementation. 24/7 support services are excellent so that you can reach out at any time of the day, and your operations do not have any roadblocks. Navigate through the marketplace thoroughly before making your decisions and even request for a POC if available from vendors.
It would be best if you didn’t rush when choosing a LIMS system. Go through all of the points we’ve mentioned above while reviewing each product and comparing it with your specific needs. You can also consult with other scientific community members with similar laboratories and operations about their thoughts on your option. Some of them may have prior experience with some systems, and they may be able to give insights that you will not find online.