Trust and responsibility create the foundation for patient safety in laboratory technology

Published 01.07.2018
Author Virpi Ekholm
Photos Mikko Käkelä
Mylab CEO, docent Samuli Niiranen spoke about patient safety in regard to laboratory information technology at the Nordic Congress in Clinical Chemistry in Helsinki on 14 June 2018.
Mylab CEO, docent Samuli Niiranen spoke about patient safety in regard to laboratory information technology at the Nordic Congress in Clinical Chemistry in Helsinki on 14 June 2018.
Samuli Niiranen
Samuli Niiranen

It is essential to bring professionals and organisations together in collaboration to ensure a high level of patient safety, emphasises Mylab CEO and docent Samuli Niiranen.

Smoothly running technology is a critical part of the activities of a modern, clinical laboratory. Providing high-quality laboratory services that are safe for patients is almost impossible without it.

In the laboratory, information technology is both a key factor of and a potential risk to patient safety, says Mylab CEO and docent at Tampere University of Technology, Samuli Niiranen.

“Laboratory information technology and patient safety” might bring to mind information security and protection against outside attacks. According to Niiranen, there is much more to it.

Technically, it also concerns the integrity, safety and accessibility of information, as well as all the work that goes into securing the recording, processing and storage of this information.

In addition, a culture of trust and responsibility is a necessity for everyone, from technology suppliers to users as well as for collaboration between expert organisations.

Trust brings professionals and organisations together in collaboration to ensure a high level of patient safety based on common values. But that trust also requires responsibility both from individuals and organisations, Niiranen emphasises.

Data in mint condition

The integrity of data is one of the most important requirements of laboratory information.

Data must always be recorded completely, consistently and correctly – exactly as it was observed at the time of testing.

Data must also contain clear indications of who or what observed and recorded the data, when the measurement was taken and whom it concerns, Niiranen describes.

In practical terms, the integrity of data is protected by making laboratory information traceable all the way back to its origins. In order to prevent false recordings, checks are performed on all data entered by humans and machines and the usability of applications is constantly being improved.

We seek to prevent the distortion of data on every level, from applications to data banks and information networks, Niiranen emphasises.

Information must be secured safely

Proper information security means protecting information from unauthorised access, editing and destruction, be it intentional or accidental.

According to Samuli Niiranen, someone in possession of vulnerable information should always know what information is recorded and where. The organisation should also be able to determine who can view or edit specific data.

Information must be secured and encrypted so that it cannot be accessed or deleted without permission, nor be sent to unauthorised users or locations.

The use of information must also be constantly monitored in order to recognise possible deviations, Niiranen notes.

The accessibility of information, on the other hand, means that information systems run smoothly and that the information is available when needed. If something goes wrong, the system must be brought back into service quickly.

This means that the service must be able to adapt to changing workloads, so that peak demand does not crash the whole system. Backup systems are helpful if some part of the infrastructure breaks. Moreover, the system’s operation should be monitored so that it is possible to react to the first signs of a problem before an actual crisis breaks out.

The accessibility of information is perhaps the most critical factor in the laboratory’s daily activities. It is also a great challenge for us all, Niiranen says in summary.

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