How to Improve Your LIMS System for Faster Lab Results

By Methodiq Team

In today's world, the turnaround time for lab test results is more important than ever. The faster you can get information to your patients, the better. A LIMS can help speed up this process by automating many of the tasks that are involved in getting lab results out to your patients.

In this article, we will discuss how you can streamline and automate your LIMS to speed up the turnaround time of lab test results.

1. Order Entry: Optimize the order-entry process

The most important aspect of running a laboratory is ensuring that laboratory tests are ordered correctly. Let's explore some ideas to help you optimize your order-entry process.

  1. Make sure your lab information is up to date and accurate. One of the most common causes of ordering errors is outdated lab information. Make sure you have a process in place to regularly update information and allow for automated data purging.
  2. Use electronic order entry whenever possible. Electronic order entry can help reduce ordering errors by providing real-time lab information to healthcare providers.
  3. Use decision support tools to help physician offices select the appropriate tests. Decision support tools can help reduce ordering errors by providing guidance to physicians on which tests to order based on the patient's symptoms.
  4. Implement a lab-order verification process. A lab-order verification process can help lab systems catch ordering errors before the specimen is collected.

With that said, let's dive deeper into the following ideas.

Prioritize electronic order requisitions

In many lab systems, requisitions are still paper-based. This can cause several problems, including lost requisitions, illegible handwriting, and delays in processing.

A high-performing LIMS system can help to solve these problems by allowing requisitions to be submitted electronically. In addition, by using electronic requisitions lab scientists can track data and communicate test results more efficiently, ensuring data integrity. As a result, prioritizing electronic laboratory requisitions can help to improve patient care and increase test turnaround time.

Use barcodes and scanners

Another way to optimize the order-entry process is to use barcodes and scanners. Barcoding can help to improve the accuracy of test results and reduce the time it takes to process requisitions while keeping up with testing demand.

In addition, barcoding can help to track the testing lifecycle and ensure that specimens are properly labeled. By using barcodes and scanners, you can help to improve the efficiency of your lab and the quality of your lab results, outcompeting other industry LIMS systems.

Automate specimen processing

A high-performing LIMS can help to automate the testing lifecycle. Automating specimen processing can help to improve the accuracy of test results and reduce the time it takes to process specimens.

Automation enables lab scientists to track lab specimens and ensure that they are properly labeled. By automating your testing lifecycle, you can help to improve the efficiency of your lab and the quality of your test results; allowing laboratory managers to maximize testing capacity.

Implement prior-authorizations

In many cases, patients need to get prior authorization from their service provider networks before they can obtain a lab test. This process can often be time-consuming and frustrating for both patients and lab personnel. Consider implementing a prior-authorization process in your lab. This will help to ensure that lab personnel can administer and validate lab test results in a timely manner.

Set up client-specific validation rules on any order entry field to ensure compliance and interoperability

By setting up client-specific validation rules, you can be sure that the data being entered into your system is compliant with the standards set by your clients, quality assurance policies, as well as meeting regulatory compliance. This will help to ensure that your lab results are interoperable with other industry LIMS systems.

You can set up client-specific validation rules on any order entry field. This allows you to tailor the rules to each patient's electronic medical records needs and set the stage for customizable search parameters. By doing this, you can ensure that all of your clients' orders are processed correctly and efficiently.

2. Accessioning: Identify bottlenecks in your accessioning flow

Accessioning is the process of entering laboratory specimens into a LIMS system. Accessioning is essential for ensuring that laboratory specimens are properly tracked and accounted for. The accessioning process typically involves entering patient information into the LIS, assigning a unique identifier to each specimen, and barcoding the specimen.

Optimizing the accessioning process is essential to improving faster turn-around time while improving sample management and regulatory compliance.

Implement BI tools and reports to identify bottlenecks in your workflows

A high-performing LIMS system will provide a laboratory director the ability to track patients, specimens, assays, and test results. It will also help to identify bottlenecks in your testing lifecycle.

A laboratory bottleneck can occur when there is a lag in any step of the testing process, from specimen collection to delayed test results. By tracking patients and specimens through the laboratory testing process, you can quickly identify where delays are occurring. Once you have identified bottlenecks in your laboratory's workflow, you can use BI tools and reports to find ways to improve efficiency.

Optimize existing inefficient laboratory workflows

A laboratory workflow is a series of steps that are followed in order to complete a lab test. Laboratory workflows can vary depending on the type of test being performed. However, all laboratory workflows have one common goal: to produce accurate and timely lab results.

There are many factors that can contribute to inefficiency in a laboratory workflow. These include:

  • Poorly designed lab processes
  • Inexperienced lab personnel
  • Lack of communication between lab departments, or the lab-to-lab network
  • Inadequate laboratory resources and testing materials

If you want to improve the efficiency of your laboratory, it is important to optimize your existing laboratory workflows. There are many ways to do this. Some ideas include:

  • Streamlining lab processes
  • Improving communication between lab departments
  • Investing in laboratory automation to reduce manual processes
  • Providing training for lab personnel on best practices

Consider using a specimen tracking system

In any laboratory, it is essential to keep track of specimens to maintain accurate records. A specimen tracking system can help to streamline this process by allowing most lab systems to quickly and easily track specimen location and status.

Ultimately, the best LIMS system for a particular laboratory will depend on the specific needs of that laboratory. However, all specimen tracking systems can help to improve laboratory efficiency and accuracy, making them an important consideration for any laboratory that handles large volumes of specimens and overflow testing.

Implement patient eligibility checking process

Every LIMS data management system is different, so it is important to first check with your LIS vendor to see if they offer a patient eligibility checking process. If they do not, there are some third-party options available.

Once you have selected a vendor, you will need to gather personal information from each patient, then use this information to check the patient's eligibility for laboratory services. The process can be time-consuming, but it is essential for ensuring that laboratory services are properly covered by insurance.

However, enrolling new patients and finding out whether they're eligible before processing a test can help you avoid denials, revenue loss, and having to perform tests that won't be reimbursed.

A high-performance LIMS should automate many of the tasks associated with patient eligibility checking that tend to be error-prone, such as:

  • Checking for insurance coverage
  • Determining whether a patient has met all the medical criteria to order tests

Use a flexible LIMS that can adapt to multiple workflows

When choosing a LIMS data management system, it is important to select one that is flexible and can be adapted to multiple configurable workflows. This is especially important for large laboratories that handle a variety of different types of samples, such as toxicology, pathology, or genetics. A flexible LIMS system will be able to accommodate the unique needs of each workflow, empowering labs to be more efficient overall.

3. Processing: Sample Processing & Tracking

Laboratory sample processing and tracking is a critical part of ensuring accurate and precise test results. There are a number of factors that must be considered when handling laboratory samples, including time, temperature, and storage conditions. It is important that the process overview monitoring protocols seek to avoid contamination or degradation when collecting and processing samples. Let's review some ideas:

Implement Queue-Based Sample Tracking

Historically, LIMS systems have been used to track laboratory samples through the laboratory testing process. However, recent advances in technology have allowed for the development of queue-based sample tracking systems. Queue-based sample tracking systems allow laboratory personnel to quickly and easily identify which samples are ready for testing, and they provide a convenient way to track laboratory samples through the testing process.

In addition, queue-based sample tracking systems can be used to monitor laboratory workflow and to identify potential bottlenecks in the laboratory testing process. The implementation of a queue-based sample tracking system is an important step in ensuring efficient laboratory workflows.

Ensure optimal entry and sign-out process

Laboratory information systems (LIS) are designed to improve patient care by reducing human error and ensuring timely results. In order to ensure optimal use of LIS, health care professionals must follow best practices for specimen collection, result entry, and sign-out.

One important way that a LIS can improve efficiency is by ensuring that laboratory personnel follows an optimal entry and sign-out process. When laboratory personnel enters data into the LIS, it is important to ensure that all relevant information is captured. This includes the name of the specimen, the type of specimen, the date and time of entry, and any other relevant details.

Capturing this information accurately and completely helps to prevent errors and delays later in the process. Similarly, when laboratory personnel sign out specimens, it is important to capture all relevant information. This includes the name of the laboratory personnel who signed out the specimen, the date and time of sign-out, and the destination of the specimen.

Use real-time dashboards to monitor turn-around time performance

Monitoring turn-around time performance is essential for ensuring that your lab results are being processed in a timely manner. A high-performance LIMS will provide you with real-time dashboards with customizable search parameters so that you can see how your lab is performing.

These dashboards will help you to identify areas where your turn-around time could be improved. For example, if you find that a particular patient has delayed test results, you will have an early detection system in place and can investigate the cause, then take steps to correct it.

Simplify your Lab's LIMS platform by consolidating disparate systems

If your lab is using multiple LIMS platforms, it may be time to consider consolidating these disparate systems into one.

There are a number of benefits to consolidating your lab's LIMS platforms. First, consolidating your lab's LIMS platforms will simplify your laboratory activities. Second, consolidating your lab's LIMS platforms will increase efficiency challenges inherent in duplicate data entry. Third, consolidating your lab's LIMS platforms will provide you with a single source of truth for your data management.

4. Result Validation: Ensure accuracy of results before submitting to the patient

In any laboratory, it is crucial to ensure the accuracy of results before submitting them to patients. This is because laboratory results can have a direct impact on public health. Inaccurate results can lead to misdiagnoses and inappropriate treatments, which can cause serious harm or even death. There are many steps that laboratory personnel can take to ensure the accuracy of test results. Let's review some:

Configure turn-around time expectations by patient, test, and product

Different patients, tests, and products have variable turn-around time expectations. It is important to be able to configure these expectations into your LIMS so that you can accurately communicate report results, provide a reason for the delayed test results, and provide a new estimate for when the test results will be reported.

Configuring turn-around time expectations by patient, test and product will alleviate the tremendous pressure labs have to increase turnaround time. This will help to improve client satisfaction and build loyalty.

Validate patient/provider contact information to ensure deliverability

One of the most important steps in laboratory results processing is verifying patient and provider contact information. This helps to ensure that laboratory results are properly delivered and that patients receive timely follow-up care.

By taking a few minutes to verify patient and provider contact information, laboratories can help to ensure that laboratory results are properly delivered and that patients receive the care they need in a timely manner.

5. Reporting: Ensure data quality and automate reporting

In any laboratory, it is essential to ensure data quality and automate reporting. There are many ways to do this. Let's review some ideas:

Ensure data quality and automate reporting

As any laboratory professional knows, to ensure that your lab results are accurate and reliable, it is important to ensure data quality. This includes ensuring that all relevant information is captured accurately and completely.

It also includes verifying the accuracy of results before they are reported to patients. Automating reporting can help to improve data quality by ensuring that reports are generated in a consistent and accurate manner.

Reduce manual data entry

While in the first section of this article we discussed that electronic orders are a must. To get high-quality reports, you must reduce manual data entry. Period. Data entry is a risky process that could bring human error into your processes. The act of data entry can often be repetitive and tedious, requiring little skill or thought. As a result, it is often susceptible to errors. By automating the data entry process, you can help to ensure that your reports are accurate and complete. Additionally, automated data entry can save you time and money by eliminating the need to hire someone to manually enter your data. Automated data entry can also help to improve the efficiency of your reporting process by reducing the chances of errors and inaccuracies. Ultimately, automated data entry is a crucial tool for getting high-quality reports.

Final Thoughts

There are a number of ways to improve the LIMS test result turnaround time for your lab. By making a few simple changes and reducing manual processes, you can help to speed up the process and improve the quality of lab results.