Tomorrow's Laboratories: Utilising Advanced Diagnostic and Information Management Technologies

Pharma IQ

As increasing value is placed on laboratory data due to cost pressures and the need for tangible results, it is becoming key concern of healthcare organisations to ensure that this information is stored in a safe and easy-to-access environment.

Both public and private sector organisations are searching for the best ways to ensure their lab is optimising the business value of lab data and information to accelerate innovation, reduce risk and improve operational efficiencies.

As with any industry, the need for constant innovation in this field is great, and the future of laboratory data and information management was recently spelled out in a report by healthcare market research publisher Kalorama Information entitled Laboratory Information Systems (LIS / LIMS) Markets.

The report focuses on the market for LIS for clinical healthcare labs and pharmaceutical drug discovery laboratories and provides market size and forecast data, as well as analysis of suppliers competing in the LIMS market, and an overview of the industry and important trends.

According the report, tomorrow's laboratories will utilise advanced diagnostic and information management technologies, such as digital pathology and molecular studies. They will require sophisticated, fast, easy-to-use and most importantly interoperable laboratory information systems to handle the resulting more complex and high volume data.

The analyst predicts that the market for LIS in the clinical laboratory will grow in the six per cent range annually in the next few years from $800 million (£492 million) in 2010.

Also, as labour accounts for more than 60 per cent of the cost of producing test results, the organisations estimate that automation and better information management systems can reduce the number of hands-on procedures in a lab and optimise efficiency.

Many operations are still using manual processes for tasks such as collecting, analysing and reporting data, and it is estimated that more than two-thirds of laboratories operate with less than half of their instruments interfacing with an LIS.

However, with growing pressures to cut costs, increase efficiencies and quality of care, and report test results in real time, Kalorama says that labs need to plan for more sophisticated LIS if they want to remain competitive.

Bruce Carlson, publisher of Kalorama Information, explained: "The vendors with a long-term view are developing a next-generation of LIS that will meet the needs that even many of today's systems cannot provide.

"Hospitals are rapidly automating, and clinical lab information systems will need to offer features such as an interface with electronic charting, electronic medical records (EMRs), real-time data integration, reporting, analytics and data visualisation, and insurance billing software."

He noted that LIS will need to reach into multiple systems to gather data, for example in a clinic or a hospital which does not have a complex laboratory, but has small POC analysers throughout the facility.

In this case, the important challenge would be to move the results from the analysers to a patient's EMR, which will become more easily achievable as more disciplines come online.

Additionally, as both pathology and molecular biology are becoming increasingly automated and digitised as products become more economically viable due to rising volumes, this is helping to fuel the growth of LIS.

At the moment, few LIS vendors currently offer products that are specifically designed to handle molecular diagnostics and pathology, and this is another issue which needs addressing in the months and years ahead.

It is clear that there is some way to go before there is widespread use of LIS, but once the platform begins to expand the global storing and sharing of data is likely to be a far smoother and more effective process.