Cloud-based laboratory information management systems (LIMS) are highly scalable and conveniently accessible. They handle automatic updates and patches so that the software is always current. Plus, they provide state-of-the-art security to ensure sensitive patient data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. However, because labs operate in a sector where patient privacy is paramount, many hesitate to transition to the cloud.
If your lab is considering using a cloud-based LIMS, you should know that cloud solutions can be just as secure as on-premise systems — as long as they are set up correctly.
In this post, we’ll explore the benefits of a cloud-based LIMS and the measures labs can implement to maintain the privacy of sensitive patient information.
What are the advantages of cloud-based LIMS?
Selecting the right LIMS to meet the needs of your business is a complex decision. If you’re just starting on this path, we recommend learning more about the various factors you should consider. For example, you might want to think about whether you should build vs. buy, how to apply a data-driven selection process, how much you should expect to pay, and why services are as essential as the product.
Whether you should implement a cloud-based or an on-premise solution is another important consideration.
Historically, many labs have chosen an on-premise LIMS because these solutions have a reputation for being more secure. But new technologies and robust security measures mean cloud-based LIMS are becoming more common.
As well as being secure, cloud-based LIMS offer benefits such as:
Ease of setup
- Cost-efficiency: Decrease upfront costs by avoiding the need to purchase and maintain expensive on-premise hardware.
- High availability: Reduce the risk of system downtime — reputable cloud providers ensure high uptime.
- Integration: Leverage cloud solutions for integration with other software and tools to streamline workflows.
- Rapid deployment: Get your LIMS up and running quickly, because there is no need to set up on-premise infrastructure.
- Reduced IT burden: Ease the load on your IT team — the cloud provider handles IT infrastructure, maintenance, and upgrades.
- Scalability: Effortlessly scale the LIMS up or down based on your lab’s needs without hardware limitations.
- Vendor support: Receive continuous technical support and assistance from the cloud-based LIMS vendor.
Security and compliance
- Automatic updates: Trust that you have the latest features and security measures because cloud providers automatically handle the updates and security patches for you. Note that you will want to work with a vendor that respects your need to maintain a validated implementation and does not upgrade your server without adequate warning and permission.
- Compliance and audit trails: Maintain detailed audit trails, helping with regulatory requirements.
- Data backups: Protect your data against loss due to hardware failures or other incidents — cloud solutions run regular and automated data backups.
- Data security: Be assured that your data is protected from unauthorized access because reputable cloud providers implement robust security measures.
- Accessibility, collaboration, and sharing: Access the LIMS from anywhere with an internet connection, facilitating remote work, seamless data sharing, and collaboration among teams, even in different locations.
- Data analytics: Use advanced data analytics and visualization tools for better insights into your laboratory processes.
- Monitoring and reporting: Employ real-time monitoring and reporting capabilities, which aid in data analysis and decision-making.
Maintaining the privacy of patient data
When working with labs, whether on cloud-based or on-premise LIMS, we make data security and privacy a priority. Particular areas we help labs focus on include:
1. Compliance with regulatory standards through regular audits and certifications
Meeting regulatory reporting requirements is vital for every business, particularly for those charged with keeping sensitive patient data secure. Certification and accreditation programs like Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) and College of American Pathologists (CAP) ensure your lab meets or exceeds industry standards, with a particular emphasis on traceability.
The LIMS you choose can have a significant impact on how easy it is to maintain compliance and run audits. Modern cloud-based solutions support compliance and reporting, with modules that you can select to fit your unique business requirements. A cloud-based LIMS vendor or professional services provider can also guide you in setting up the LIMS with this compliance in mind.
2. Encryption and high-level access control
Most organizations, including labs, do not have the financial or staff resources to maintain the high level of security offered by large cloud service providers. Reputable providers, like Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure, provide data encryption and high-level access control to ensure privacy.
3. Secure storage and backup
Cloud service providers also offer round-the-clock physical security and backups, reducing the potential for ransomware or viruses to be installed by a rogue actor. In the event of a failure, cloud providers can quickly migrate your data to a new virtualized server — a huge benefit for labs that face physical hardware server limitations at their on-premise sites.
4. Regular updates and patches to the latest version
Ensuring that your LIMS software is always running the latest version reduces the risk of cybersecurity attacks that take advantage of known weaknesses. For on-premise solutions, that means having staff or a professional service provider install your updates. Cloud-based LIMS solutions are regularly updated and patched, often automatically or by a dedicated team.
Which cloud-based LIMS should you use?
Labs have different requirements based on their unique business roadmap and strategic goals. We recommend labs consider the functional capabilities they require, the professional services available, the potential for scalability, and the affordability of the solution.
The LIMS you select will make a difference to your lab’s short- and long-term success, so it’s critically important that you choose the one that’s the best fit for your business.
If you’d like to discuss the pros and cons of a cloud-based vs. on-premise LIMS, contact us for a free consultation.