We are living in unprecedented times right now with the recent outbreak of SAR-CoV-2 and the global emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. And now, as never before, our nation’s attention is focused on laboratories and the diagnostic industry at large. The quality of diagnostic testing during this time of international crisis will be talked about for years to come. Fortunately, many companies have joined the fight to help facilitate COVID-19 testing, as laboratories quickly ramp up to add this to their testing menu. Yet, while many of the news headlines focus on instrument manufacturers and new testing techniques, one element that is often overlooked is the critical role of a laboratory’s LIMS.
LIMS Software Facilitates Successful COVID-19 Testing
The diagnostic options for COVID-19 are expanding rapidly with more and more tests being issued Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA, including those developed by some of the most reputable vendors in the in vitro diagnostics industry. These tests generally are antibody-based or amplification-based, and it’s up to each individual laboratory to determine which test best fits its needs and capabilities.
Regardless of the type, each test requires a robust laboratory workflow that starts with specimen accessioning (pre-analytic phase), then moves to a series of steps for specimen preparation and analysis (analytic phase), and concludes with result report generation and delivery (post-analytic phase). This can only be done by using a comprehensive and flexible LIMS.
To ensure accuracy and efficiency, perhaps the most important aspect of COVID-19 testing - and an aspect that is facilitated by the LIMS - is streamlined data entry at accessioning that carries through to reporting. Critically, a lab must 1) ensure that all data collected at the point of care is linked with the clinical data entered during accessioning to avoid double-entry of data (thereby slowing the process and increasing the risk of error); and 2) develop an end-to-end workflow that can easily accommodate the new type of testing and associated volume.
For instance, many laboratories that have recently started COVID-19 testing have been overwhelmed by the sheer number of nasal swab specimens. Before starting with this type of test, a lab must be prepared to implement a new workflow in their LIMS to handle the spike in volume. Without a thoughtful approach, the laboratory will be overwhelmed.
More Than Just Software
Labs need a true LIMS partner to set up and deliver COVID-19 testing in a rapid and practical fashion. It’s about more than just software. A LIMS partner should help define requirements, design results reports, and develop the interfaces needed to create the most efficient implementation of the test. Additionally, through a true partnership, labs should gain access to personnel with the LIMS vendor with deep experience and expertise based on years of seeing all types of testing (and crises).
Finally, because time is of the essence, a lab needs a LIMS partner that can move quickly to create an efficient implementation plan. That means 1) the LIMS itself must be flexible and configurable; and 2) the team behind the LIMS must be consultative, responsive, and on point. Now is not the time for a LIMS vendor to carve out weeks to code new functionality. And, now is not the time to hear that your vendor is tied up with other projects. A high-functioning lab needs a LIMS that can rapidly accommodate the necessary COVID-19 test requirements and a team of committed professionals willing to go the extra mile in this time of urgency.
Labs in the Spotlight
The COVID-19 pandemic puts laboratories in the spotlight unlike any time before. Yet, where there is adversity, there is opportunity. With leadership and innovative solutions, it will be laboratories and their supporting technology – including LIMS solutions – that help the nation overcome this crisis.
ApolloLIMS has helped over 20 laboratories set up COVID-19 testing in just six weeks and is proud to support the fight against COVID-19. Request a demo or Contact us to learn more about how we can help your lab.