The Life Sciences business is an Information Business. We sell small containers of material at a considerable price. But without supporting information representing the product’s identity, purity and potency, we are unable to sell it. So in essence, Information IS our Product. That’s why companies spend so much time and energy ensuring that the information is correct. Usually, there is a document or report that attests to the authenticity of the product or service. In the pharmaceutical industry, this document is called the Certificate of Analysis (COA). In the diagnostics industry, it’s called a Test Report (TR). In both cases, the company must provide strong traceability from test result back through the testing process so they can prove the veracity of the results.
During system implementations, we generally recommend that final report generation be part of the initial project. For instance, when I work with a customer on a pharmaceutical LIMS, I always steer them towards COA creation in the first version. Once the system “owns” the results, it becomes possible to perform Statistical Process Control (SPC) on the results and catch trends early. If the system doesn’t own the actual results, it undermines its usefulness. A system that does not contain the results can start to atrophy because the staff goes elsewhere for answers.
The other reason we like to produce the final report is because it represents our customer’s product. If possible, we like to provide direct access to the final report using a portal. When we provide direct report access, customer satisfaction increases and the customer support workload goes down; freeing up staff for science.
One of my clients used to fax Test Reports to a physician’s office at the end of each business day. This entailed printing the report to paper and feeding the fax machine for up to an hour. Then we instituted a secure daily email that had links back to the online final reports. Now, the physician’s office receives the email and can self-serve. And my client’s staff can work on higher value tasks. This would not have been possible if the system didn’t own the results.
So when you are designing your next system, don’t discount the value of final report generation. I encourage you to include this feature in the initial version. Because if your system can’t generate the final report, it doesn’t “own” the results.
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