The future of lab developed testing (LDT)

Four steps to implementing a more standardized LDT environment
Today’s diagnostic labs face more than their fair share of challenges. From managing increasingly complex test menus to handling ever higher sample volumes – busy labs need to find ways to grow while ensuring the versatility to keep up with the spread of pathogenic organisms. Add to that the financial imperative to develop new and innovative cost effective tests that differentiate their testing portfolio and that’s a lot to keep up with.
So what’s the answer to these diverse challenges? Standardization can deliver higher levels of efficiency, flexibility and data management that will help your diagnostic lab meet today’s needs and tomorrow’s goals. With that goal in mind, here are four steps that will help you enable a higher level of LDT standardization.
Step 1:
Manage rising throughput

Keep in mind, an increase in lab volume is actually good news. But to ensure that it stimulates further growth and doesn’t exhaust the capacity of your lab, you need to put the right practices into place. The solution? In a word: delegation. Except, instead of piling more work on a colleague in the lab, why not delegate tedious and menial tasks to technology? That’s the key to lab automation.


With today’s technological advancements in the field of lab automation, applications and instruments range from the use of multi-tip pipetters to fully automated robotic stations. The level of automation completely depends on the specific needs of the individual lab. But what is true for labs of all shapes and sizes is the desire to spend less time on repetitive tasks.


Many traditionally manual tasks can now be automated with the right technology, including filling multiwell plates for assays, washing, rinsing, applying reagents, or even completing a large number of repetitive steps when working with huge numbers of samples. 


By automating some or all of these tedious tasks, lab technicians can be freed up to pay more attention on driving innovation, advancing your portfolio and increasing the potential of your lab. Plus, you get to increase overall efficiency because it only takes a fraction of the time to set up, run and analyze results that previously took many man-hours.


Due to the reduced need for hands-on intervention, the frequency of errors is far lower as well – enabling you to achieve muchneeded consistency in your procedures and ultimately in your results.


Step 2:
Organize your information

With a rise in throughput – especially made possible by automation – there will naturally be a sharp increase in the amount of data that needs to be reported. 


Implementing a state-of-the-art lab information management system (LIMS) will not only help you sort, decipher, file and utilize all your data, but will also streamline your workflow and minimize errors that occur due to human intervention. 


Let’s take a wide variety of samples as an example: most LIMS will log all your samples, give them a unique number and barcode, record all actions performed as well as the details of the person performing the action and the time when it was performed. Today’s LIMS will also capture data directly from your laboratory instruments, increasing the accuracy and the speed of data entry. Due to an increase in accuracy, the amount of retests required become dramatically less – saving not only time, but money too.


However, the more samples you have, the harder it becomes to keep track of all the steps in your testing process – especially if you’re still relying mainly on manual documentation. A LIMS will make sure that all the data is centrally and securely stored, improving traceability, accountability, and result safety. 


Apart from storing all your current data, a LIMS will also give you easy access to all your historic data, enabling you to do valuable data analysis and use this information to further improve productivity and efficiency in your LDT environment.  

Step 3:
Streamline procurement 

While trying to keep efficiency and performance levels as high as possible, not having access to the lab supplies you need – and exactly when you need them – can cause immense and unnecessary frustration. Unfortunately, traditional procurement methods are often to blame due to lengthy shipping cycles, confusing purchasing platforms or outdated technology. 


The multitude of steps in the traditional ordering process – from identifying the need, choosing a supplier, contacting them for a paper catalog, negotiating prices, filling out a purchase order, acquiring approval signatures, organizing payment and shipment to finally receiving the purchased supplies later than promised – are not only incredibly time-consuming but prone to errors too. 


That’s why many labs have transitioned to innovative and userfriendly eProcurement solutions. These solutions enable labs to integrate online catalogs into their existing procurement systems. 


The level of sophistication and the type of eProcurement solutions differ, but all of them have the following in common: they connect you to the supplies you need, allow you to select, order and pay for them electronically and enable you to enjoy customized pricing according to your lab’s negotiated terms. eProcurement makes it both easier and more convenient for you to order and receive the products you need – keeping your lab operating at peak efficiency.

Step 4:
Obtain the optimal workflow

Differentiating your lab developed testing environment means having the flexibility and agility to react quickly and successfully to new emerging pathogens – while simultaneously delivering consistent and accurate results when running a high-volume of molecular diagnostics tests. In order to do so, your lab needs to be equipped with state-of-the-art solutions that are compatible, interchangeable and can be used for multiple testing purposes within your lab. 


By integrating automated instrumentation together with a LIMS, you’re already minimizing errors, maximizing accuracy and increasing efficiency. This results in a productive and effective workflow that is flexible enough to handle an increase in throughput and a variety of tests. 


In standardizing your workflow, you’re also empowering your researchers to spend less time worrying about every single step in the testing process and more time utilizing their expertise.


Bring it all together

There are many ways to enable higher throughput, increased efficiency and a more diverse testing portfolio in your diagnostic lab. But only by implementing systematic standardization across your entire LDT environment can you meet current needs – and innovate for the future. 


As the world market leader in Molecular Diagnostics, Roche delivers high-quality nucleic acid purification (NAP) and qPCR systems – that connect to your LIMS – with a wide range of solutions that will allow you to grow your LDT environment exponentially. To find out more about how Roche can enable true standardization to your diagnostic environment, visit the Lab Developed Testing solutions page.