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Optimizing Lab Workflow

Optimizing Lab Workflow

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Working in a lab, where data collection and laboratory management are necessary to function properly, can be complicated thanks to the simple fact that multiple employees have several daily lab processes. One way to streamline everyone’s activities is by incorporating a daily laboratory workflow cycle to adhere to. 

What is a Laboratory Workflow?

The easiest way to think of lab workflow is as a form of a checklist or flowchart of procedures that every person in the room and every task going through the laboratory must observe to maintain order in the laboratory. The laboratory workflow process follows the standard operating procedures (SOPs) and helps in improving workflow efficiency. 

Lab workflow management

Laboratory Information System Workflow

A laboratory information system workflow makes it easier for the laboratory to manage all patient information, be it personal data, lab test results, or other essential clinical examination data that needs sorting and storing. To be able to streamline this process, a formal tool like laboratory management software can be equipped to work with the clinical laboratory to reduce unwanted errors from the tedious manual recording and processing of patients’ clinical data.

A  clinical laboratory information management system (LIS or LIMS) helps labs oversee workflow in the laboratory including the tracking of lab samples, laboratory testing workflow, workflow process improvement, and lab workflow optimization among many other important operational tasks. Using an efficient, all-encompassing lab workflow software platform that is compatible with the needs of the clinical laboratory helps automate processes and monitor lab samples and test results, which in the end, helps lab personnel put together fast and accurate clinical results while also heightening patient safety.

Digital Pathology Workflow

Having an effective lab workflow software also makes it easier to work on virtual microscopy. Digital pathology facilitates the acquisition, management, and interpretation of pathology information in a non-traditional way, through the use of digitized slides viewed on a monitor rather than the use of glass slides viewed under a microscope. Digital pathology workflow aids in seeking to follow patterns and tag any outliers, plus images can easily be transported from one clinical setting to another, improving lab efficiency and diagnosis turnaround time. 

As the sanctity of a clinical examination is in the repetition and continuous logging of records, having a workflow system is necessary to improve workflow in the healthcare industry. This assures that each lab team member knows the processes they are responsible for and can collectively work together to properly test the sample and identify and report on the result of the testing procedure. 

Digital pathology workflow

Laboratory Workflow Management

Clinical laboratory workflow can be a challenge, as practices need to be guided by Standard Operating Procedures and the Health Information Privacy Protection Act (HIPAA). This legislation ensures security for the public within three areas of data storage: technical security, administration, and the physical storage of protected information. Clinical healthcare facilities (labs, clinics, hospital systems, etc.)  have a responsibility to adhere to all three. Having a manageable, searchable, and auditable workflow system is crucial to maintaining this security. 

One way clinical labs, and all medical laboratories really, can streamline processes is by planning for solutions. Ways to troubleshoot common hiccups or abnormalities should be included in the workflow system, so all lab personnel have the access to answers without having to waste time or risk the samples. These unexpected problems also need to be documented in the system. The clinical laboratory workflow management software selected by the lab should be a honed instrument that helps pathologists, laboratory technicians/specialists, and subsequently, their sick patients, get accurate results faster. 

How to Improve Clinic Workflow

Here are some tips to help improve workflow in the lab, and most of these would be much more achievable with the correct workflow system and software. They are as follows:

  1. Identify any bottlenecks. Does a procedure constantly bottleneck at the same point? Is the pattern notable but unverifiable because of a lack of recorded data? Figure out where and why this is a challenge for your lab and address the problem. 
  1. Do tasks simultaneously. A standout example of this is the speed at which the world was given a proven COVID-19 vaccine. This is because processes that didn’t have to wait for one another were completed in parallel. Do whatever the lab can do alone or in concert with other parts of the clinic at the same time to cut down on procedural time. 
  1. Instead of batching or waiting until a group of tests is ready to be handled, develop a continuous flow process. This can help patients obtain answers faster and encourage employees to diversify their workday. 

Why Use Lab Workflow Management Software?

Workflow of laboratory information systems is one branch that needs to be addressed in overall lab management. Extended lab management also includes RCM and digital pathology workflow, evaluation and workflow improvement, employee continuing education, and laboratory updates in compliance oversight. Overall lab management also incorporates supplies, schedules, record keeping, and documentation, as well as reporting of lab status and other activities. Process control is an essential part of laboratory management, and this is where effective laboratory workflow management solutions come in.

The role of a reliable lab information system software working on a common database ensures that all components of lab management are supervised and running smoothly. Elements like automation and multi-department operational guidelines are essential to improve the laboratory workflow process and data and sample management procedures. 

Laboratory workflow examples of struggles with their chosen software tool involve lack of technical support, incomplete features, non-workable interfaces, missing or untracked patient and sample records, difficulty accessing the database, and so on. Rising to the occasion to assist your medical laboratory’s needs, an agile, comprehensive, and future-ready software solution will help alleviate these lab management challenges and help build the business by removing barriers positioning it to scale up. 

Laboratory information system workflow

Final Word on Optimizing Your Medical Lab 

It’s highly important to increase efficiency and ease of use in the laboratory workflow. The clinical lab workflow must take into account SOPs, current lab practices, and quality control. With so many moving parts, incorporating an effective lab workflow software can greatly improve a lab’s management speed and capacity. It can also aid in research, making it far easier to aggregate data and lessen the difficulty of finding archived information.

A successful LIS or LIMS platform integrated into the laboratory workflow can maximize productivity and produce positive impacts on your laboratory services. Whether by expanding your test offerings or by increasing the volume of patients being tested, improving the accuracy and efficiency of the lab workflow process is an important aspect that helps medical laboratories adapt, grow, and thrive.

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