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The Benefits of a Flexible Laboratory Information System

With access to different tools and options, users can tailor a LIS to their unique workflows

Craig Wargin, CIO of Comp Pro Med, Inc.

Craig Wargin is the CIO for Comp Pro Med, Inc. and oversees the technical development of the polytech laboratory information system and technical services provided by the company. He holds a BS in computer science with a minor in business administration from the University of Wisconsin.

Since joining Comp Pro Med in 2010, Mr. Wargin has been the leader on key projects for Comp Pro Med’s Polytech laboratory information system. He championed the effort to update the system to run on 64-bit computers, and updated the functionality and user interface for virtually every part of the system. He currently leads the U.S. support program and oversees international support for programming teams in various countries. 

Q: What are the advantages of having a highly flexible and user-configurable laboratory information system (LIS)?

A: Each lab has unique workflows and needs, and customization is very important. Because we have set up many labs over the years and have yet to do the same setup for different labs, we have developed our software to be very flexible and customizable. It also makes it easier for laboratories to grow and change over time.

There are high-level system options that control major functions—depending on whether the lab does traditional microbiology, or pathology, for example—and there are also smaller customizable options, such as the layout on the screen, report formats, references ranges, and more. We believe it is important to give users access to these tools and options rather than keeping them restricted to those with programming knowledge.

Q: How can a LIS be customized to handle workflows in a variety of different labs?

A: All labs have different needs and workflows, and there are many different ways an LIS can be customized to support those workflows. For example, while a clinical lab may need to do advanced beneficiary notice as they interact with patients, this may not be important for a reference lab that often has no direct interaction with patients. Many standard reference labs perform a lot of the same tests and processes, so the LIS can be customized with greater automation to support the lab as it grows and acquires new clients. Hospital labs have different challenges, such as tracking inpatients versus outpatients, and may require stat functionality to support the emergency department.  

Q: How does Comp Pro Med help labs create and send reports to communicate with health care providers? 

A: Ultimately, the point of an LIS is to help the lab create their product—the report. We help labs achieve this with a built-in report generator that can be used to create reports based on the recipient’s specific requirements and preferences. With the Polytech LIS the user has all of the tools for reporting at their disposal, so there is no need to reach out for help to customize a report. When we developed the system, we ensured it was simple to use and designed for laboratory professionals, not programmers.

In addition to report generation, we ensure reports are delivered to physicians and health care professionals. There are many avenues for report delivery, ranging from delivering a physical report via courier to electronic delivery via secure email, EMR interfaces and web portals.

Q: How much training do you provide for the LIS, and is extended support available after the training cycle?

A: When we train new users on the LIS, we like to take a more organic approach. Doing a full rundown of the system gives users a lot of information at once, and it is hard to remember and learn this way. Instead, we like to do more targeted training while the system is being deployed. This way, we can define similar functions together and then move on to other functions.

We also provide ongoing lab support when initial training is complete. The purpose of ongoing support is not only to help solve problems, but also to really understand the goals of the laboratory and help ensure they have the solutions in place to achieve those goals. For example, when a lab contacts us for help with a problem, they often realize that solving that specific issue doesn’t necessarily allow them to accomplish what they were hoping to do. When you support the lab, there is a back-and-forth process to understand the goal and develop the solution. We want to empower the laboratory, and our lab support is designed to do that into the future.

Q: How does Comp Pro Med decide which improvements to make to Polytech LIS?

A: First, we rely on feedback from labs. There is always something new they will need, or some burgeoning area of the lab that we weren’t aware of—maybe a behind-the-scenes change to billing processes—that requires a new feature.

We also stay up-to-date on emerging trends in the laboratory and testing space. For example, pharmacogenomics is becoming more commonplace, and since we have been watching this since it first emerged, we have solutions already in development. Watching new trends emerge, then thinking it through as to how it relates to the lab, is a large part of how we develop Polytech for the future.