Today laboratory information management systems (LIMS), along with a number of other scientific and technological advances, are being widely used in labs. By integrating a modern LIMS, you will greatly simplify processes such as laboratory research, sample tracking, reporting, inventory tracking, task monitoring, and more.
It's not surprising that more and more organizations—hospitals, pharmacies, biotech companies, universities, etc.—are adopting LIMS solutions. This is clear by the steadily growing amounts of money that are spent on LIMS development every year. According to Statista, by 2021 it will exceed $ 900 million.
In our recent posts, we’ve answered questions like “What is LIMS software and what industries should employ it?” and “What advantages does lab management software provide?”.
In this article, you will learn how to create a LIMS system, what functionality it should have, and how to ensure its practical implementation is the most effective for your needs.
What issues does a laboratory information system solve?
Over the past few decades, LIMS implementation has become a firmly established part of everyday clinical practice. This has significantly changed the nature of laboratory work and even the very idea of disease treatment principles.
The main advantages of a lab information system are:
- Automation of routine, manual, and repetitive operations
- Reduced paperwork thanks to the integration of a paperless workflow
- Minimization of human errors
- Boosting employees’ productivity
- Modernization of the quality control system
- Inventory tracking with no losses
- Automation of the reporting system
- Improved workflow/data management
5 key features to include in your LIMS system
The functionality of laboratory information systems can be very diverse. The ability to select certain features or build a custom LIMS solution depending on your business goals will allow you to get a product tailored to the needs of your organization.
Although defining the functionality may initially seem to be a daunting task, there is a basic set of features that should be included in your LIMS software:
1) Sample Management
Sample registration and monitoring is one of the key parts of laboratory management. This implies the ability to enter data into spreadsheets, manually or automatically, and receive data from other information systems (ERP, order entry, etc.). A LIMS system makes it easy to track information thanks to detailed tables and samples’ statuses on the dashboard.
2) Data storage
Data updates are common in the laboratory management practice. A LIMS database can be designed in such a way that all changes are automatically saved. Therefore, the user will be able to see all the previous document versions in the history and never lose important details.
3) Statistics of quality control research
This is one of the core LIMS features that will help you get the results of control measurements directly from the analytics system. Since this procedure is mandatory in any laboratory and requires manual results processing, the automation of this will save a lot of time and effort.
4) Electronic Laboratory Notebook (ELN)
ELN is another feature that you should incorporate in your laboratory solution. ElM is employed for document research, experiments, and various procedures. This function enables customers to completely abandon the use of bulk paper lab notebooks.
As a rule, a laboratory information management system includes a set of standard reports. There is also an embedded report generator that allows the user to develop and customize the required reporting forms.
5 important steps to build lab management software
The development of a lab information management system can be a difficult process that requires time and investment. Regardless of whether you prefer a ready-made product or a custom laboratory solution, you will have to scour the market to find a suitable vendor, define functionality, train employees, and more. However, there are steps that will help you build a great LIMS application.
1) Analyze your business needs
The primary goal of a LIMS, and any other software system, is to maximize workflow efficiency. With this in mind, you need to thoroughly analyze the existing lab processes and identify which need optimization and automation.
The final requirements will depend on the proper identification of your goals. This becomes a reliable basis for building quality lab management software to address all your current and/or anticipated challenges and helps you avoid additional expenses associated with developing unnecessary functionality.
2) Choose between a market-ready and custom LIMS
There are many large companies on the global market that offer lab information systems. Usually, they build applications in the form of a "skeleton", which then can be adapted to solve specific problems of a particular laboratory.
However, there are some drawbacks with these off-the-shelf products. Since they are designed for a wide audience, they contain a lot of unnecessary functions that you may not use at all, but still have to pay for. And for the features that are missing, you will face additional costs to upgrade.
With custom LIMS development from scratch, it’s possible to tailor the system to your specific requirements and without overpaying for unnecessary functionality. If implemented properly, this certainly pays off in the long-term.
3) Find a trusted software/LIMS development vendor
To hire a reliable vendor for making great lab management software, you can use both the recommendations of colleagues and independent search efforts. For example, it would be reasonable to browse reputable platforms such as Clutch.co and GoodFirms that contain ratings, lists of the best IT companies, and client testimonials.
There you will have the opportunity to get acquainted with the range of services, the experience of software engineering firms in specific industries, as well as to find honest reviews and ratings based on feedback from real customers.
There are many important points to consider when choosing a LIMS development partner. Check out our article with useful advice “Ultimate guide on how to choose the right custom software development company for your project”.
4) Take care of resource allocation and project management
To ensure the success of your integrated laboratory system, you need to hire a reliable and highly-qualified team. Software and QA (quality assurance) engineers, business analysts, project managers, UI and UX designers will complement each other at all stages—from task planning to testing and debugging.
Take into account the risk management plan. It should include a description of all the development stages, all possible risks and ways to resolve them, as well as the role of all internal and external resources in these processes.
A combination of skills, resources, and methodologies is crucial for achieving a great result.
5) Gradually develop a lab information management system
Don’t be deceived by the tempting prospect of doing everything at once. Follow a clear, consistent plan for introducing lab management software in your organization.
During this process, engineers will have the opportunity to quickly fix emerging issues. By minimizing the occurrence of errors, you can ensure the correct and efficient functioning of your laboratory information system.
The development of lab management software isn’t such a difficult task as it may seem at the beginning. Follow the following 5 basic steps to build a quality solution: analyze your work processes, define problems or things that can be improved, think through the functionality, hire a trusted software development company, and follow the principle of consistency.