Coronavirus has affected every single person on the planet’s life in a way that no one has experienced before. One silver lining in this enormous cloud has been technology, which is a huge advantage for governments, labs and health care providers. Global communication and collaboration has led to some incredible feats of human achievement, with vaccination efforts starting within a year of the pandemic.
That said, the real-time government response has been painfully slow. The rollout of testing, contact tracing and COVID-19 vaccines has been skewed unfairly toward certain demographics, and the result is that the United States has one of the highest death rates for COVID in the world. Joe Biden’s inauguration has marked a change in the government’s approach, and many labs will require a software update to cope with the influx of new tests.
Joe Biden has pledged to take a science-led approach to addressing the coronavirus pandemic, marking a radical shift in federal strategy. In addition to masks, physical distancing and public health campaigns, Biden is focusing on expanding testing, making more PPE and supplies in the United States and focusing more on genome sequencing.
There’s been a major imbalance in how COVID-19 affects people from different races, with Black, Hispanic and Native American people more likely to die from the virus. Research has highlighted that this is more likely due to socioeconomic issues than genetic variants within these populations. Congregate settings such as homeless shelters are getting major investments from the new administration.
Outsourcing manufacturing supplies such as pipette tips, injected molded plastics and other essential testing equipment has slowed down capabilities in the United States. Biden has pledged to increase production of raw materials and supplies to prevent future shortages and streamline the production process.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the new plan is directed at labs, which have been touting the potential advantages of genome sequencing throughout the pandemic. The fastest way to identify new strains of SARS-CoV-2 is by analyzing RNA under a microscope. However, for sequencing to happen, positive tests need to be processed first. As such, the plan to increase testing capabilities seems astute.
For labs, a massive rollout of tests means a lot more data to make sense of. While manual approaches have served smaller labs well up until recently, the sheer scale of the pandemic means that using software is a more viable solution for small and large laboratories. Laboratory information systems can improve speed and traceability and eliminate the risk of human error.
Many labs use various systems for managing analytics results, lab processes, study protocols and metadata. An LIS streamlines everything into a single hub, automating the processes for creating a chain of custody record and complete biospecimen life cycle for each specimen. Informed consent, shipment information, study protocols and storage locations are all stored within the system.
During unprecedented times, bottlenecks are inevitable unless you take the necessary steps to prevent them. An LIS lets you organize patient requisitions, monitor the status of sample queues and manage the flows of data seamlessly. Plus, you can optimize productivity and efficiency, so instead of using spreadsheets, you can manage specimens, processes, process status, interpretations, variants and reports from one place.
One of the most time-consuming and volatile aspects of lab work is compliance. Human beings are much more creative than computers and better problem solvers, but technology has the upper hand when it comes to performing repetitive tasks at speed. Where human error is usually the culprit for compliance problems, software eliminates these risks, making CLIA breaches less likely in the future. Technology also ensure proper and speedy regulatory reporting.
Of course, compliance isn’t just about ticking boxes for regulators. Reducing the risk for error in a pandemic means more lives are saved.
Genomic data has mainly been used for neuroscience and oncology, but its potential for improving public health is undeniable. Making sure your lab is capable of processing and analyzing large quantities of RNA data means you’re ready for the next big shift in the landscape. As health care becomes more focused on epigenetics and preventive approaches to disease, this type of lab work will become increasingly lucrative.
Data collection is an inevitable aspect of handling biospecimens, and security is absolutely essential. Digital health care systems have the potential to rapidly improve COVID-19 testing and vaccination development, but they also pose a major cybersecurity risk. LIS software ensures every specimen is traceable and securely holds patient information until it’s submitted to a physician for treatment. Various stringent security measures are in place to ensure no one else can gain access to your lab’s PHI.
COVID-19 data is one of the most precious commodities in the world right now, so you must take every step necessary to keep information systems secure. NovoPath’s primary aim is software development that lets reference labs, universities, hospitals and specialty labs use automation to improve workflow and enhance accuracy. We can help you find smarter ways to generate, organize and protect test results so health care providers can save more lives.