QA/QC Insight: Reduce data review time without compromising quality

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One of the key challenges we see QA/QC laboratories facing is the need to increase sample throughput and improve turnaround times without increasing the cost of analysis.

An effective way to meet this challenge is to reduce the amount of time spent on data review. Lab personnel that spend less time on data review have more time to spend on sample analysis. Reducing data review time also reduces turnaround time, getting results out to clients and end users faster.

However, reducing data review time cannot in any way reduce confidence in the quality, accuracy and consistency of reported results.

Let’s look at two steps that a lab can take to reduce data review time without compromising data quality.

Step 1 – Eliminate Paper

The first step to reducing data review times is to eliminate paper based processes for data collection, test execution, reporting of results and management of laboratory resources.

Every time a manual entry needs to be made in a paper based system, it creates a potential source of error that needs to be reviewed – recording sample information, recording test results, performing calculations to arrive at final results, recording instruments that are used or lot numbers of reagents and materials  – the list goes on and on. A thorough data review process requires taking the time to review and confirm the accuracy of each of these manual entries.

The review process can be further delayed by the reviewer having to:

- Resolve illegible entries “Is that an 8 or a 3?”

- Locate lost or misplaced records “Where is the second page for this test?”

- Verify the testing process “Was that reagent still within its expiry date? I better go and check the inventory log. “

Moving away from paper based systems reduces the potential points of error that reviewers need to focus on and provides faster access to the information they need to carry out a thorough review.

Step 2 – Bench Level Control over Test Execution

Most laboratories have recognized the drawbacks of paper and have taken steps to move away from paper-based processes. Spreadsheets are used for recording test results and performing calibrations. Applications for inventory and calibration are seen as a step forward from paper log books.

However, every one of these stand-alone solutions shares a common problem. They don’t know anything about how the analysis is performed. Did the analyst record the data correctly, did they look up the expiry date for that reagent and did they check that instrument’s calibration before running the test? So the reviewer has to look through each of those different applications to answer all of those questions. And that takes time.

A better approach is to answer all of those questions at the time of analysis by integrating all of the different applications in a way that allows them to share information in real time and use that information to control test execution at the bench level. A Laboratory Execution System (LES) provides just that capability.

Within an LES, an electronic worksheet can automatically check with a calibration application to make sure that the instrument being used is calibrated before the sample is tested. It can check with the inventory application to make sure the reagent hasn’t expired before the analyst uses it. It can take control over execution of the SOP at the bench level, guiding your analyst through each step of the process.

Knowing that all of these checks take place as a test is run reduces the amount of time spent on data review without compromising the quality of the data that is being reported. 

More Information

Watch a short video demonstrating how iLAB LES and the Ensemble® for QA/QC platform help laboratories work more efficiently, driving productivity while maintaining accuracy and compliance