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Realizing the Business Value of LIMS for Your Organization

Implementing a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) can be time-consuming and expensive. A relatively limited scope for partial functionality (release testing only, for example) can run several hundred thousand, or more, taking several months to complete. With the level of investment that it can take to implement a LIMS, it’s important to spend some time considering what value will be provided to the business by this platform and ensure that the capital is being spent wisely. In this piece, we will discuss the business value of LIMS, exploring both the quantitative and qualitative benefits, and how you should leverage this information to make good decisions about your LIMS investment. 

Quantitative Benefits 

The first step in understanding a quantitative benefit is knowing what your baseline measurements are (understanding these measurements should be a part of the initial business case, but often LIMS implementations are greenlit without them). Generally, whether the lab is paper-based or uses some level of technology for lab management, the two main things that we measure a lab for are the volume of tests out the door and the quality of the data generated – each of which can be tied back to a dollar value. 

With throughput, the laboratory’s major measurement is turnaround time. For example, measuring how long it takes to process a sample through the lab, from initial receipt to the release of the final testing results. There are many steps in the lab for this process that we can measure, such as sample preparation, test execution, data entry or transcription, and data review.  Each step will have an average processing time, and we can extrapolate an estimate for the total time it takes for a sample to move through the lab. Consider places where the sample flow may not be completely linear, such as where sample batching for test preparation occurs. It’s also important to consider areas and processes outside the lab that might be impacted. For example, original paper records must be stored per regulatory retention rules, which require staff to manage and cost to store.  

Once you have established the metrics you’re going to use to analyze laboratory throughput, you will need to compare the current state to the future state. Prior to implementation, work with the system vendor and the implementation team to estimate the time savings per process step. Once you understand the delta between the current state and the future state, both on a per-step and overall basis, you can estimate savings in a few ways.  

You can present the savings in Full Time Employee (FTE) terms, using the time savings divided by the number of hours worked by an employee in the same time frame. This is a limited view, however, and the natural outcome of presenting data in this way is a question asking about when you will be releasing the “extra” headcount in the department. The FTE savings can be converted to dollars by multiplying the FTE estimate by the average loaded cost of an FTE. Using the lens to think about what increasing laboratory throughput can mean for the business can lead you to better arguments to make. Processing more release testing samples means more batches can be released, leading to more products on the market and ultimately higher revenue. There are also savings downstream of the LIMS, as reducing laboratory errors means fewer quality events to be managed, and removing paper forms will reduce archival costs. 

It’s recommended to establish a range, with a conservative estimate and an aggressive estimate, so you can provide leadership with an appropriate target. You’re more likely to have success achieving an outcome that falls within a range over a specific goal. If you’re coming from a completely paper-based laboratory, the data for the current state can be difficult to obtain. In that case, it may be easier to rely on qualitative benefits. 

Qualitative Benefits 

Qualitative benefits can be difficult to discuss, as they’re things that cannot be easily measured. There are often intangible or hard-to-measure benefits that should be considered when thinking about investing in a LIMS. 

One of the major qualitative benefits of moving to a LIMS from a paper-based laboratory is the user experience for laboratory technicians. Completing laboratory worksheets by hand is a time-consuming process that can also be a source of errors. A worksheet will require a great deal of information to be entered for each sample that is being tested, including each piece of equipment and reagent that is being used. For methods where many samples are processed simultaneously, this can also be very cumbersome. Imagine if all that information that must be written on a worksheet was available digitally and could be selected at the click of a button. You should also consider the impact on the lab technician. Reducing repetitive labor, limiting errors, and minimizing the paper process all improve the technician’s work experience, making them less likely to seek employment elsewhere. Additionally, data reviewers will not have to struggle to read worksheets, enforce correct GDP processes, or manage stacks of paper. 

Another benefit is an improvement in compliance, but it can be difficult to assign a dollar value to this.  Improvements in compliance can reduce internal and external audit preparation and response time, reduce product recalls, reduce regulatory pressure on a company (either in the form of observations or increased scrutiny following multiple and repeated observations), and ultimately prevent a company from going under consent decree or no longer being allowed to sell products.   

Realizing LIMS Business Value 

It’s not recommended to rely predominantly on qualitative benefits, as that may indicate that not enough research, thought, or preparation has been done in advance of the project or in making the business case for LIMS. Consider both types of benefits in making your decision. If you need further guidance, our LIMS consultants can help. 

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Tags: LIMS