Will paperless labs be the “new norm” in a post-COVID-19 world?

02 June 2020

If you have read any of our previous blogs, you will be aware that many labs – maybe even yours – still use paper records for their environmental monitoring. Paper records have contributed to a major issue that many labs face: a lack of data integrity. However, under our current circumstances with the threat of the pandemic and little understanding as to how long the virus can survive on surfaces, the UK government are encouraging businesses to adopt a paperless approach for the safety of employees. Given this guidance, will more labs take the step to modernise, shredding the paper for a software solution?

What were the challenges before the coronavirus?

The use of paper throughout the environmental monitoring process exposes labs to numerous risks which threaten data integrity. You can read more about the consequences of this in our recent whitepaper, but to summarise, if labs cannot trust their data, they are unable to be certain that products are not a risk to patients. As a result, the number of MHRA warnings for lack of data integrity are on the rise and it’s increasingly being acknowledged that software solutions can combat many of these risks – regulatory bodies have been recommending labs go digital even before this crisis.

In addition to the compliance side, paper records also limit the efficiency of labs; transcribing data multiple times onto paper is time-consuming, whereas, with digital solutions, this is only inputted once. Additionally, due to an increased risk of human error associated with this method, staff must dedicate time to correct mistakes or miss them entirely. This limits availability of time to complete second check on plates or innovate and ultimately, a risk to a patient.

Problems in the pandemic

Of course, these above issues remain of critical importance, but the coronavirus has presented an array of new challenges. When the virus hit, the government released guidance which stressed the importance to maintain the cleanliness of surfaces; this is because it was established that the disease could spread by people touching objects – such as paper – upon which an infected individual has released droplets from the nose or mouth, through sneezing, for example. The issue with paper is it cannot be adequately disinfected, and especially in labs where records may be handled by a number of people over time, there is a higher risk to staff. Recently, with the lockdown restrictions eased for those who cannot work from home, this issue with paper has once again been highlighted, businesses encouraged not to handle paperwork if possible. Considering this, we can expect many labs to begin to consider the use of a digital solution if they have not already adopted one.

Paperless labs post-COVID

Regulatory bodies such as the MHRA already have been recommending a digital approach, even before the pandemic, so the future lab being paper-free shouldn’t come as a surprise. The big question is, has the virus sped up this process by highlighting the fact that paper may spread germs, leading to the government guidance to go digital? Only time will tell, but we can safely say that if you do swap the pen and paper for a smart, modern lab, you won’t want to go back, not just because of increased efficiency and data integrity but also for the safety of your employees.

Take control with a smart solution

If you are wondering how to take the step towards a digital solution for your lab, be assured that it doesn’t have to be as hard as it seems. With Microgenetics SmartControl, getting started is simple; the subscription-based pricing model makes the software accessible to labs of all sizes, and with no physical server installation, you could have SmartControl up and running in your lab in just six weeks. We even provide an extensive validation package for you.

With SmartControl, you can solve some of the biggest challenges in your lab; it is a paperless solution, designed to help labs maintain compliance. There are several benefits to this intuitive, risk-reducing software; firstly, it is quick and easy to capture, manage and track your data. Entering a sample takes just 5 seconds, notification of limit breaches is instant and being cloud-based, data is instantly accessible to an unlimited number of users. In addition to this, the software is designed to help you to meet the ALCOA+ principles of data integrity. SmartControl has been developed to meet the requirements of GMP Annex 11 and 21 CFR Part 11, so users can stay ahead of regulatory requirements.

Ready to modernise your lab? Learn more about SmartControl today.