Implementing a new Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) is one of the most complex tasks faced by diagnostics teams in the NHS.
Our Head of Delivery, Ash Tailor, has supported many clients through the process and shares his top five lessons for LIMS implementation success.
LIMS is software that enables diagnostics teams to manage samples and data. It can automate workflows, standardise testing and reporting procedures, and allows pathology networks to share data across multiple organisations. Overall, a successful LIMS can make diagnostics more efficient and effective.
But implementing a new LIMS across a diagnostics network, and the associated range of organisations, clinicians and teams, can be a hugely challenging process.
Ash Tailor has helped pathology networks to implement a LIMS – from determining the best system for their organisations to project managing its set up, implementation and delivery.
This experience has given Ash more than his fair share of knowledge about the realities of LIMS implementation. Here are his top 5 lessons to help you embark on your LIMS journey:
Lesson 1: Vision and leadership are key
It’s vital that your organisation has a clear vision to have a single LIMS across its network. You need to communicate that vision clearly so that everyone in the organisation understands why it is being implemented and the benefits it will bring.
That vision must be supported by your leadership team. If they advocate for the system, it massively increases the buy-in from the rest of the clinical and operational team.
An internal communications campaign is the best way to ensure your vision is properly embedded in your organisation – but make sure it’s a long-term approach. Tell people about your key milestones, your successes and your challenges throughout your implementation journey to keep them engaged and enthused about the delivery of your LIMS vision.
Lesson 2: Commit to strong governance
You must manage your implementation process robustly. Critical stakeholders (including those in the C-suite) need to understand their roles and responsibilities, and formal project management processes should be in place to manage tasks, time and budget.
It’s vital that the key people working on the implementation project are released from their day-to-day duties. They will never be able to embed a new system effectively if they remain tied to operational work.
Lesson 3: Learn from your EPR campaign
Most NHS trusts are in the process of or have already implemented an electronic patient record (EPR) system. EPRs have rightly received a lot of attention – which has resulted in dedicated time and focus on delivery.
LIMS don’t always get the same profile as EPRs and, as a result, take much longer to implement (three to four years in some cases).
It’s paramount to put some momentum behind your LIMS project to keep everyone focused on your implementation plan. Check in with your EPR colleagues to see how they tackled their campaign and apply the lessons from their work.
Lesson 4: Collaborate at all costs
Implementing a new LIMS is a digital transformation project.
It requires a change management approach that considers all the relevant disciplines in an organisation. While diagnostics team are directly impacted, they need to collaborate with a range of other clinicians and operational teams to make the new ways to working successful.
Mapping stakeholders at the start of the project is a great way to identify where, how and when you need to collaborate – and reaching out to those stakeholders from the beginning is essential.
Lesson 5: Harmonisation
One of the benefits of a LIMS is the standardisation of data collection, reporting and diagnosis procedures.
It’s important to focus on harmonisation as part of the implementation process so you can agree standards for using the system once it’s in place. As a result, simple procedures like blood tests can be harmonised across your network so that all organisations use and share data in the same way.
Harmonisation leads to better quality data and more efficient diagnostics services.
LIMS are complex to implement and will change the way your organisation manages its diagnostics function. In my experience, setting out a clear vision from the start, fully engaging with your stakeholders and embedding robust project management procedures is the best way to succeed.
Get in touch
If you’d like Ash’s support with your LIMS implementation project, you can contact him at email@example.com.