UGM Featured Speaker Preview: Defending data from field collection to final reporting

With two weeks to go until our 2013 User Group Meeting in Waltham, Mass., we spoke with UGM presenter Kathy Smith, Senior Database Administrator and LIMS Administrator for the Narragansett Bay Commission, about her plans to share insights gained in its laboratory using the wireless, automated iLAB® Laboratory Execution System.

Narragansett Bay Commission is a non-profit public corporation that owns and operates the two largest waste treatment facilities in Rhode Island. The commission regularly tests wastewater samples from industrial sites and needs to be able to defend chain of custody of its samples in the event that a sample’s accuracy and authenticity were to be challenged in a court of law. 

When Kathy joined NBC in 2003, the laboratory had a LIMS but it wasn’t able to collect instrument data directly into the database, and was using paper logs and paper chain of custody.  The paper trail in the laboratory reduced the lab productivity and allowed transcription and calculation errors.

“If you have to go to court to defend when, where and by whom a sample was collected, in what refrigerators it was stored in the lab, and how many different people touched that sample, it becomes very difficult to defend your data using a manual recording system,” Kathy said. “It’s easy for lawyers to poke holes in data recorded with pen and paper.” 

Kathy played a key role in the recommendation that NBC adopt the iLAB integrated solution. Instead of pen and paper, field collectors bring an iPad into the field and electronically record sample collection information that is then instantly transmitted to NBC’s database through the iLAB Portal.

“To document chain of custody, the field collectors collecting a sample simply use a wireless device to scan his or her employee badge, along with the barcode associated with the container” Kathy said. “When a field sample arrives at the laboratory, the receipt person scans his or her employee badge and each container’s barcode to log in each sample. Samples can easily be received and we have the ability to track samples marked in-transit along with the other pertinent statuses using an all-in-one touchscreen computer mounted on the wall in our facility’s receiving area.”

Each time a sample enters or exits a refrigerator, laboratory area, or passes through a chemist’s hands, scanners are used to record building location and employee information.

“Our data is completely defendable, and almost entirely automated,” Kathy said. “I’m really excited about the mobile solutions that allow our field collectors to go out into the field with an electronic device and to also use the device as a scanner. There’s no double entry, no chance of error. When it comes to documenting a sample’s chain of custody, we could absolutely defend our data if we were questioned.”

The laboratory has also embraced the use of iLAB LES in the microbiology lab where it has eliminated the need for paper logs. Each paper log, ie. inventory log, dilution log, reagent log, etc., has been converted to an LES worksheet. Data that needs to be sent to the database is automatically driven in through the process, and copies of the worksheets are stored as PDF’s in SharePoint. This is a huge benefit that reduces errors and cuts down on costs.

When Kathy attended the National Environmental Monitoring Conference in San Antonio last month, she noted that many of her colleagues in the environmental industry were extremely impressed by what NBC had accomplished by implementing iLAB. It became clear that “we are ahead of the curve” in terms of adopting automated technology, Kathy said.

The final deployed LES at Narragansett Bay offers higher quality data with less effort and includes the following: Automated Sample Tracking, Implementation of Mobile Devices, Wireless Scanners, Embedded SOP Links, Automated COA generation, Instrument and System Integration, Integration with SHAREPOINT, Inventory Management, Touch Screen Receipting, Electronic Lab Notebooks, Instrument Calibration and Maintenance Management, Automated Electronic Chain of Custody, Total Traceability and Data Defensibility.

Kathy will present “Enabling Data Defensibility and Laboratory Productivity Using a Laboratory Execution System” on Day Two of our two-day UGM, held October 1 and 2. You can sign up to attend this exclusive gathering of experts and peers right here.

Read more about the products NBC implemented by clicking here.