Lab Information Management Systems Out of Step with Industry Changes

Connected health models are changing clinical practices around the world. Sometimes it seems these changes are occurring only very gradually. But in other areas, the revolution is rapidly gathering pace.

InterSystems recently conducted a survey on the clinical laboratory management systems market in the UK and Australia, and it confirmed our view that the laboratory business is changing dramatically. Industry consolidation, advances in automation, genomic testing, and the increased use of point-of-care testing are driving major shifts in where, when and how testing takes place.

Laboratories are facing pressure to meet the rising demand for laboratory services, while also using fewer resources – to increase efficiency while driving down costs. What’s more, we found that current information systems are not equipped to support the changes clinical laboratories are undergoing.

When asked to select the drivers of change in their laboratories, almost nine in ten (88%) of UK and three quarters (75%) of Australian respondents cited “cost savings/efficiencies.” Over half (52%) of UK and more than three in five (63%) Australian respondents also selected “automation.”

Before we go any further, you might want to know why and how InterSystems conducted the survey.

We believe laboratories require a new generation of informatics solutions to manage the lab as an agile, knowledge-driven business. Existing laboratory information management systems, or LIMS, aren’t up to the task. That is why we are introducing the world’s first laboratory business management system, or LBMS, to help laboratory customers transform from a reactive testing and results service to a proactive healthcare partner.

To validate and inform our approach, InterSystems conducted two surveys in September 2015, one in the UK and one in Australia. In the UK, we surveyed 81 professional staff representing 60 NHS public pathology laboratories, 10 private or independent pathology laboratories, and 11 related organizations including government at the IBMS Biomedical Science Congress in Birmingham, UK.

During the same month, at the 53rd Annual Australasian Association of Clinical Biochemists conference in Sydney, Australia, we also surveyed 60 professional staff representing 29 public pathology laboratories, 18 private pathology laboratories, and 13 related organizations including government.

The survey results substantiate our view that current laboratory information management systems fall short of what labs need.

When asked how their laboratory was changing, 72% of UK survey respondents said it will have to continually assess its costs and the services it provides to optimize its service mix. This is a key requirement under the NHS hub-and-spoke model for laboratory network formation. In Australia, 65% of respondents said the laboratory will operate as part of a multi-site laboratory network, and 60% that the laboratory will continually analyze and improve its processes.

However, only 26% of UK respondents and 29% of public lab respondents in Australia agreed that their current laboratory information management system is able to support changes their laboratory is undergoing.

Other key findings included the following:

  • 67% of UK and 75% of Australian respondents said complete visibility, control and accountability over the testing process are important to the success of their laboratory in the future.
  • 65% of both UK and Australian respondents said their existing LIMS cannot provide analysis of which tests are running at a profit and which at a loss.
  • 58% of UK and 62% of Australian respondents said the ability to predict laboratory workloads and pinpoint bottlenecks is important to their laboratory’s future success.
  • 62% of all UK respondents and 59% of Australian public lab respondents indicated that their current system does not have the ability to predict laboratory workloads and pinpoint bottlenecks.

Of course, every clinical laboratory faces its own set of challenges, and there are significant differences between the changes occurring in different countries around the world. Our survey seems to have uncovered some common themes in two advanced markets, the UK and Australia, however.

Does what we’ve found strike a chord with your own experience? I’d be interested to hear from you if it does.

Martin Wilkinson

Martin Wilkinson leads the development of InterSystems solutions for the laboratory market. Based in Sydney, Australia, he has more than 25 years’ experience in health information technology.
Follow him on Twitter at @martin_CIO

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