Building productive interfaces between the LIMS and analytical instruments is not trivial. There must be a deep understanding of lab data flow and the diverse interface scenarios. Fortunately, by following some best practices and principles, it is possible to create interfaces that make staff more productive, improve data transfer, enhance reporting, and improve test turnaround times. This post will walk through a few strategies for designing an effective LIMS interface with lab instruments.
1. Select the Right Type of Interface
Instrument interfaces fall into two main categories: uni-directional and bi-directional interfaces. Uni-directional interfaces perform simple data transfer by receiving data from the lab instrument and sending it to the LIMS. They are generally simple to implement, but they require additional data entry before sending the results to the LIMS.
On the other hand, the bi-directional interface links the LIMS and instrument with the capacity to move data to and fro. For example, a bi-directional interface can retrieve a list of pending test samples from an LIMS and send the list to the instrument.
After analyzing the samples, the interface collects the data from the instrument and gives feedback to the LIMS. If you want to reduce the workload on the lab technician or analyst to automate the creation of sequences and work lists, it is advisable to opt for a bi-directional interface.
2. Understand How Data Flows in the Lab
Before developing an LIMS interface for process automation, you must carefully analyze the existing data flow. Data flows from one component of the system to another.
The first step will be to locate the components and then study the way data flows from one to another. You also need to know the events that will occur and the sequence they will appear.
In addition to studying components, you need to know the data formats of the LIMS required for interface communication and the table structures used to store data in the LIMS.
3. Understand the Instrument Data
First, identify the instruments you need to interface with the LIMS. Split them into three categories:
- Instruments that are outdated and don’t have a functional data connection
- Older instruments with a simple data connection
- Recent instruments with more sophisticated data connection and software interface
Next, you need to check the complexity of the data produced by each instrument. For instance, an instrument may produce a single value while others may produce graphs with a color spectrum.
Also, you should find out what other data you need to attach to the instrument’s data in the interface before the complete test results are sent to the LIMS.
4. Focus on the End Users
Most interfaces serve the needs of analysts, supervisors, and lab managers, and it is vital to find out their requirements before designing the interface to the LIMS.
You need to know whether the analyst needs to review the data or take any specific action before sending it to the LIMS. In some cases, a lab manager or supervisor may need to examine the results and approve them before releasing them.
Understanding the requirements of each end-user will determine the amount of automation permitted by the interface.
Creating an interface to link your LIMS to analytical instruments is an intricate project that requires detailed analysis and planning. That’s why working with a lab integration expert will help you to actualize your desire to have a fully integrated lab information system.
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Contact Lifepoint Informatics at 877.522.8378 now to schedule a free consultation. Visit our contact page today to book a free demo of our lab integration solutions and discuss your interface development needs.