Strategies for Managing Your Lab Software Stack

NGS clinical diagnostic labs face growing complexity in their software solutions as they attempt to adapt to a market with evolving requirements and stakeholder expectations. It’s not that they want to add to their systems in a piecemeal fashion—it’s quite the opposite. Most lab managers would prefer to buy a single complete solution that meets all of their current and future needs.

A single solution or multiple components—what’s the answer?

There’s currently no single software platform that can meet every clinical lab requirement. In fact, a recent survey of molecular laboratories demonstrated that commercial laboratory information systems have significant functionality gaps which is why labs are left piecing together custom software and individual components from multiple vendors into an “end-to-end” solution. Unfortunately, this means that solutions are often built piece by piece over time with inadequate thought toward the overall system architecture.

The benefit of using components from various vendors is that it allows the lab to go with “best of breed” software and be less dependent on the long-term strategy of a single vendor. However, to make this work, a lab needs to have the internal resources or an experienced partner to architect, build, and maintain the integrations.

A significant problem with assembling a system of individual components in this way is that every component requires an integration bridge—and both the component and the integration need to be supported and maintained. The result is not just an increasingly complex software system, but also a multiplicity of vendor support agreements, and in some cases, gaps in support. That’s because individual software vendors are incentivized to make their own applications work well, but not necessarily to make them compatible with third-party applications or to provide integration resources or support.

But integration goes beyond just holding the system together

When something goes wrong, labs that have pieced together their software system face the daunting task of identifying which component is responsible and therefore which vendor or expert to call for assistance.

Many labs don’t realize that they require the ability to do more than just assemble and integrate the components within a clinical lab’s software stack. They’ll also need access to expert insight that provides high-level system-wide consulting and support for the lab’s end-to-end workflow, and keeps the entire system running smoothly with the least amount of downtime. In effect, they need someone who can manage the set of integrations as a cohesive effort or product.

The right specialist will reduce the lab’s risk by rapidly analyzing the root cause of an issue, and then solving the issue directly or working with the appropriate vendor to do so. Having a single point of contact means a lot less inconvenience for the lab, saves significant time and effort, and can greatly reduce support costs. Further, someone who “speaks software” fluently can navigate vendor support queues with ease.

We highly recommend that clinical diagnostic labs relying on a software stack made up of numerous individual components choose their partners strategically. A trusted integration partner with knowledge of the entire system is motivated and capable of handling issues across the spectrum, from one end of the stack to the other—that level of support and the confidence that goes with it is priceless.

If you’d like to learn more about how we could help your lab optimize its software stack and improve its performance, check out the other posts in our blog, or contact us today.

As Field Application Scientist at Semaphore, Mark is passionate about translating client needs to actions for the implementation team. Having worked in similar positions at both Genologics and Illumina, Mark is a subject-matter expert on genomics, genomic-lab operations, and post-sequencing data processing and pipelines.