The healthcare industry – and everything associated with it – is constantly changing. Announcements about new technology are still exciting, but almost commonplace. It’s difficult to remember a time when a notebook was spiral-bound paper, not a handheld electronic device. Today we have LIMS (Laboratory Information Management Systems) that manage data across every department within a modern laboratory. Medical labs always had lots of data, but they didn’t always have easy ways of accessing it or sharing it.
It wasn’t too long ago that a laboratory’s test data, sample tracking, and result reports were typed manually and held in large bound books for reference. Individual Labs began experimenting with the computer technology available at the time and attempted to custom-design their data management systems. These systems proved successful initially, but required significant internal effort and time to keep up with changing lab protocols and business practices.
As computing technology advanced, LIMS became commercially available. They still required a tremendous amount of customization to meet the needs of each lab. This impacted the implementation time and cost. Many labs found the cost prohibitive and continued using the bound books.
Thanks to the personal computer and continued technological advances throughout the 1990s, the entire reporting system changed. Test results and reports were now being shared via overnight deliveries and fax machines, and eventually via email and electronic files. Information management was also benefitting, even though there was still the issue of how to get all the different software systems to communicate in a single language they all understood.
The 2000s and Beyond
The modern LIMS is a robust and evolving software platform that supports just about every automatable function performed in the lab. More than a sample tracker, it is an easily accessible repository for all data, an interface for instruments or other labs, and a generator of countless reports.
Every lab, regardless of size or function, needs to have a laboratory information management system to keep up with the industry. Exciting new features and improved functionality are always in development, and the next big announcement is always just around the corner.