“Towards a paper-free laboratory”

980706SL  3/3  Dr. Donald B. Louria, Chairman of the Department of Preventative Medicine and Community Health, in his cluttered office at UMDNJ in Newark. He has discovered that immune system suppressor CD8 cells secrete substances that control the growth of the AIDS virus. 7/6/98 NJNP Photo/Scott Lituchy

How many of you work in a microbiology laboratory that is completely, and I mean completely, paper-free?

It is a nice goal to aspire to but it is also very difficult.

I think most of us are now past the days when the sample work-up was hand-written on the back of the request form (I certainly remember those days…) but this aside there are many other ways that paper can pervade our workplace.

Think about the following other potential sources of paper:

  • Method Manuals
  • Internal QC
  • External QC
  • Meeting Minutes
  • Training Records
  • Results coming back from Reference Labs
  • Educational Material including journals and textbooks
  • Order forms for consumables

How many of the above list is your lab ‘paperless’ in?

For a lab to be completely paperless it needs to be disciplined.

Not only does it need to not produce its own paper (I would recommend a printer ban..), but it also has to have systems for digitalising (by scanning) any paper that comes into the laboratory from external sources.

More hastle than it’s worth?

Maybe, but once the systems are in place, such a vision has the potential to produce a very clean and clutter-free laboratory. It will also be cost effective in terms of saving money on printers and paper.

I think truly progressive laboratories should aspire to these kinds of goals…



2 thoughts on ““Towards a paper-free laboratory”

  1. What is the CLIA, CAP or JCAH regulation on microbiology test result documentation? Are we required to document 24 hour AND 48 hour primary plate reading of urine culture result? Currently our small lab of urology practice has Orchard for LIS system and EPIC for EMR, and BD M50 microbiology analyzer, we are working towards paperless urine microbiology. There are two technicians rotating chemistry and microbiology bench every two weeks and one weekend tech to read microbiology.

    1. Hi Marino,
      Thanks for your comment. Working in NZ, I don’t know what the regulations are elsewhere in the world. However I suspect it will not be long before paperless processing becomes a regulatory requirement laid down by regulation bodies. I think we also need to get away from thinking about plate reading in terms of Day 1, Day 2. Check this article out! Certainly every read needs to be documented and auditable in some fashion.

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