Running a laboratory is a complex task. It typically involves storing, sorting, tracking, processing and managing complicated workflows, material inventories, sample registrations, result tracking, instrument data, and other types of data.
The importance of having a reliable system of data management cannot be overstated for a laboratory. It can literally be the difference between success and failure for research and experiments. And for medical/hospital laboratories, it can be the difference between life or death for patients. For example, a medical lab might need to collect a patient’s blood sample. This needs to be processed, analyzed, matched with the patient’s health records and sent to the appropriate doctor in charge of the patient’s specific condition. A simple mistake at any point could be fatal.
By far the most reliable data management system for labs is the Laboratory Information Management System, or simply LIMS. This article provides everything you need to know about LIMS, and how to select the best one for your laboratory.
LIMS is an acronym for Laboratory Information Management System. It is an innovative software solution that helps laboratories to efficiently manage data and workflows. Modern LIMS now boast advanced functionalities beyond the simple use of a computer for storing data. They can now be used for data analysis, data mining, automating workflows, managing samples, and integrating instruments. Most LIMS also come with Electronic Laboratory Notebook (ELN) features.
LIMS have made it easier for laboratories to manage an unbelievable amount of data which most modern labs have to deal with. It has also helped to reduce human errors, improve efficiency and collaboration, and reproduce research.
Here are some of the benefit LIMS provides for laboratories:
A LIMS software solution allows laboratory scientists or technicians to input detailed data collected from samples, tests, research or experiments, using different methods. Taking a healthcare laboratory for example, typical data that can be collected could be any or a combination of the following:
As this data is entered into the LIMS system, it generates barcodes that can be easily scanned by authorized personnel to get each of the stored data entered from the database. While storing the data, LIMS can also be used to update files in the system, track tests and transfer results to the appropriate or desired integrated system, such as the Electronic Laboratory Notebook (ELN).
There are many LIMS solutions available, and deciding which one to choose is a very big decision every laboratory has to make. It is a big decision because it is not very easy to assess the quality of a LIMS software while it’s in use and it is usually difficult to switch to a different LIMS software after already choosing one.
Therefore, every laboratory must carefully critically assess the efficiency of a LIMS software before deciding to use it. It is vital to select a software solution that meets all the specific demands of your research/lab, some of which have been highlighted in the previous section.
Nevertheless, here are some of the leading LIMS solutions available on the market:
Exemplar Laboratory Information Management System is a world-class paid software solution by Sapio Sciences, a renowned US based organization. Exemplar LIMS provide a range of software solutions that are useful for a wide range of research, from pharmaceutical to bioanalytical, clinical and histopathology, among others. It uses a web-based interface which means you don’t have to download any additional apps. It also makes it thin-client accessible, making it suitable for both small and large research/clinical organizations. Exemplar includes an ELN system – the Exemplar ELN Professional for its LIMS software. It is the most powerful, flexible, user friendly and easy to configure ELN-LIMS system available.
Some features of the Exemplar LIMS includes:
CloudLIMS is a very cost effective LIMS software solution. It is a cloud based Software as a Service (SaaS) product. This means there is no need for product installation or hardware/software requirements. CloudLIMS offers other services like Technical support, backups, legacy data migration, hosting, and instrument migration. It is great for clinical/healthcare labs, biobanks, food research centers, and analytical facilities.
Designed by Abbott Informatics, it is a fully equipped LIMS software with total lifecycle management. Due to evolving data management in various laboratories, StarLIMS supports integration with an existing system, reducing the need to purchase new hardware. Furthermore, although the StarLIMS software has a number of technology levels, business rules, and data, it can easily be replaced by another level or plan without losing any data.
StarLIMS is able to suit its user’s unique workflow with ease. Moreover, it reduces the need for manual tasks because lab tasks and testing workflows can be automated. This is useful for keeping in sync with the regulations and for repeatable research.
A pioneer LIMS software, LabWare offers both desktop and cloud versions of their LIMS software. The software is available in multiple forms and for several operating platforms including SaaS, Windows, Mac, iPad and Android.
LabWare LIMS offers features such as:
LabVantage is a self-acclaimed provider of the most modern LIMS platform available in market. It offers a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) with tight integration between their Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN), Laboratory Execution System (LES) and the LIMS solution. The software solution is able to adapt quickly to the business requirement of the users and it can support hundreds of parallel users at once. LabVantage LIMS allows laboratory efficiency by enabling an easy automation of tasks and integrating fully with lab systems and instruments.
Major features of the LabVantage LIMS include:
Qualis LIMS is a product of Agaram Technologies, a global enterprise class product provider of ELNs, LIMS and Scientific Data Management Systems (SDMS). The Qualis LIMS is focused on providing quality control in laboratories. It was also designed to address laboratory regulatory compliance requirements like the Good Laboratory Practice (GLP), NELAP, Net Cord, GCP, cGMP and others.
While using a LIMS software solution is vital for running an effective modern laboratory, it can be a little expensive. The total cost – including maintenance – of some LIMS software can go as high as 40 thousand dollars, while some – such as SaaS LIMS solutions – do not require any upfront payment but operates via a pay-per-use system.
The high price tag for these software solutions go higher as their quality and usage soars. However, the price typically includes a number of benefits:
In conclusion, it is undeniable that adopting LIMS can significantly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of any scientific laboratory, regardless of industry. LIMS help to easily process, track and manage huge volumes of data. It can also help to create better workflow, establish quality assurance and reduce human errors. Furthermore, before selecting a LIMS solution it is important to carefully assess the pros and cons – of each software solution – to make sure you choose a perfect fit for your specific industry.