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Purchasing or changing a system to manage all of your valuable samples is a big decision. In the considerations, discussions and demonstrations that lay down that path, there are a great deal of “must haves” and desirables to weigh up.
A key element of LIMS installation and use that is often overlooked is the users, and their requirements or restrictions of use.
This can, and should be applied to the following two areas:
A laboratory will have a varied staff that require LIMS access, often with different goals. To enhance a return on investment, each team and user should have a directed and specific experience. Access to the screens and processes they need to interact with in a timely manner is integral.
This can facilitate a training and competence program at laboratories. Access can be granted as required, when the requirements or skills have been met. This can be used to prevent users performing actions that they are not qualified or allowed to do. As an individual progresses with skills and experience, additional roles and access could be granted by a system administrator.
From a business angle, some users may only wish to use a LIMS to monitor, and report. Dashboards and reports/searches are more key areas to these users than the general functionality. Once logged in, it would be beneficial to be able to access data and reports directly from the data displayed on dashboards. Saved searches and reports that can be modified or repeated on each log in will also enhance the ability to report and visualise quickly.
For optimal lab performance, each section of the staff should be presented with the options and functionality that relates to their work. This allows the system administrators to create sectioned groups that are linked to specific profiles that relate to why they need to access a LIMS. This should also be completed with clear SOPs and user guides for software use for the protocols and actions required.
The setup of customised screens, processes and access points is often overlooked in any LIMS installation and use. This is mainly due to the great deal of other work required, data transfer, installation etc. However, a process driven interface and segregation of teams and vastly reduce clicks and new user challenges. As time progresses, the incremental time saving is its own return on investment.
Aside from the separation and management of functionality, there is also often the requirement to compartmentalise the data. This allow users representing different teams or facilities to have filters added to the data that they can see and interact with.
Multiple laboratories/users/sites can connect using the same software but have access to data or specific studies defined. At a site level, this may apply to data, storage options, patient information that is specific to that site unless access is granted.
Alternatively, with sites that are linked via the software, one central site may require access to all, or some views may need to be “read only”.
With this type of separation of sample and data access, a mechanism to control the transfer of samples to other connected sites or users is also integral. If a sample(or samples) undergo transfer, they should become available to the recipients as data.
The inability to view certain sample, or more pertinently patient data is often a major consideration. LIMS should be used to protect and separate data so that only users that have the correct credentials and access can see it. This may be a security or nominative data consideration, or simply a way to limit the data and studies a user needs to interact with.
Overall it is important to consider the users and their experience whenever implementing a LIMS. The number of users and types of software requirements will differ from facility to facility and that needs to be taken into account when deciding on a solution.
Does a solution support your organisation structure and use? A small laboratory compared to a multi-site facility may have different rules on segregation of data and use of the software in studies and projects.
Does the solution support an increasing amount of users as the future develops? The cost of expansion and management of users is also an important factor to consider in the initial stages.