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Case Study: An integrated laboratory management system

Creating an information system lifeline

SRL Ranbaxy, the largest clinical reference lab in India transformed its heterogeneous applications environment into a consolidated backend customized ERP. A look at how the company created this lifeline of its business in phases. by Soutiman Das Gupta

SRL Ranbaxy, a large-scale clinical reference laboratory, which performs diagnosis and testing, operates out of a central laboratory in Mumbai, and has satellite labs in Delhi, Bangalore, and Mohali (Chandigarh).

It collects clinical samples for testing from around 500 collection centers nationwide and disburses the reports after performing the necessary tests. A typical day at the company sees the lab personnel perform around 7,000 tests on the various medical samples it receives.

To facilitate operations at the lab the company deployed a Laboratory Information System (LIS) in 1997. And in order to facilitate other operations like accounts, billing, materials management, the company had to use a number of separate applications and processes.

To rid itself of its heterogeneous environment and consolidate operations, the company requested Ahmedabad-based Applitech Solutions to develop a Laboratory Management System (LMS). The company went live with the LMS in November 1999 and over a couple of years integrated it with other business modules like materials management, billing, accounts, lab operations, client service, and sales & marketing.

The LMS now functions as an ERP for the organization. Since most of the large ERP players do not have solutions that combine the functionalities of lab management and other business operations like materials and accounts, the company chose to have its solution tailor-made.

"The Laboratory Information System was a unique system for the lab and functioned well for lab-related operations, but did not have the functionalities of an ERP" G. Radhakrishna Pillai, Manager, Information Technology

Heterogeneous applications

In 1997, SRL Ranbaxy implemented the LIS that its parent company in USA had deployed in its laboratory. It used an OS called Pick. "The LIS was a unique system for the lab and functioned well for lab-related operations, but did not have the functionalities of an ERP," explained G. Radhakrishna Pillai, Manager, Information Technology.

And there were other aspects like the system was programmed to interface with insurance companies. But this functionality was not needed in an Indian environment, where aspects like bill receivables and client management were more relevant.

After the LIS, the company realized that it needed to deploy accounting and billing systems. In 1998 SRL Ranbaxy deployed an accounting application FACT, followed by a billing system Delta, in 1999.

LMS, the ERP

In November 1999, the lab module of the LMS was deployed in the company and was integrated with the billing and accounting applications. "We preferred to refer to the LMS as our ERP at this stage, since it now went beyond simple lab operations management," said Pillai.

In 2001, all the company's business activities were mapped to the LMS. Lab operations was the critical heart of the system and by 2003, functionalities like accounts, billing, client service, sales & marketing, and materials were integrated with it. The ERP runs on Intel-based IBM servers.

The 500 nationwide collection centers previously had manual tariff lists and issued a manual receipt for the tests it performed. The frontend operations activity at the centers has been computerized and the systems have been integrated with the LMS.

Patients now get a computerized bill and any change in tariff of services is updated automatically. This ensures that the patient is not overcharged. A bar code is also generated in the collection center so the sample identity is maintained.

Instrument analyzer equipment at all laboratory locations have been interfaced with LMS. Some are bi-directional and some uni-directional. This provides the company turnaround time and error free results. SRL Ranbaxy has developed in-house expertise in interfacing instruments.

Other networks

A significantly important feature of SRL Ranbaxy's ERP is that it is able to interface with two external infrastructures named CCNET and Ccom. CCNET is the Collection Center network and Ccom is the sales force automation system, and both are integrated with the LMS.

CCNET

CCNET was developed in 2002 and was only connected to various locations in Mumbai in the beginning. 125 locations are currently on the CCNET network, and 50 more will be added by December this year. The central lab in Mumbai receives testing samples from 21 locations on the same day and by courier service from numerous other nationwide locations by the next day.

Using the CCNET, the diagnosis reports are sent to the 125 centers through the network. Reports are sent to other locations not on the network, with the help of encrypted e-mail.

This is how the connected collection centers share information with the central lab. The collection centers upload the test requisition data into a Web server on Satyam through the Internet. The central lab logs onto the server and gets information about the tests that have to be made.

The test results are updated on the server by the lab, and the centers are able to retrieve the information. Other information like tariffs, new doctor registration, invoices, stationery, and stock are also shared.

Initially the reporting mechanism depended entirely on the speed of the courier service provider. Pillai explained, "So if we performed a test in the night, the result could only be sent to the collection center the next day. But in this business the turnaround time is very critical. The use of IT helped us reduce it greatly."

Ccom

Ccom, the sales force automation systems were deployed in 2002. It is in the form of an Intranet portal that can be accessed and updated through the Web and even through cellphones using WAP.

In order to benefit the company's 125-odd member sales force/medical representatives, and to ensure that vital and
updated information is shared between the sales force and the central lab, Ccom has been built in modules.

The modules cover areas like sales management, logistics, patient records, interaction area, WAP, employee area, and LMS area (for real time data updates).

In-house development and compliance

Even though the ERP was developed by Applitech Solutions, SRL decided to maintain a skeleton in-house development team in 2001. The in-house team comprised personnel with different technology backgrounds. This helped the company maintain and enhance CCNet and Ccom, which required special technical expertise, The applications were developed according to the best industry practices and high priority was given to documentation and quality control. The systems are audited by CAP, NABL and other international third party auditors.

Confidentiality and security of data is the prime concern of any health care industry. And since the company is dealing with international customers, it realized the need for 21 CFR part 11 compliance as per US FDA.

"We are working towards achieving this. We have to take care of extensive documentation and put standard operating procedures in place. We have already appointed a security-auditing consultant to scrutinize according to 21CFR guidelines. And we will shortly achieve HIPPA compliance as well.”

Other labs and future plans

SRL Ranbaxy runs lab operations at various nationwide locations. These labs are not as large and well equipped but serve as efficient satellite locations. These labs are in locations like Bangalore, Indian Spinal Injury Center New Delhi, Mohali, and Faridabad. Labs are being set up at Kolkata, Hyderabad and Amritsar. These locations are currently not linked and there are plans to connect them in future through a WAN.

"We also plan to build a large Bio-repository of information that we have collected from our operations. This will not only help our organization maintain records, but also support other purposes, like epidemic studies," said Pillai.

Soutiman Das Gupta can be reached at soutimand@networkmagazineindia.com

In a nutshell
  • The company
    SRL Ranbaxy is a large-scale clinical reference laboratory, which performs diagnosis and testing. It operates out of a central laboratory in Mumbai, and performs around 3000 tests on the various medical samples it receives from 500 collection centers nationwide. It also has a 150 member sales force.
  • The need
    The Laboratory Information System handles lab operations fairly well but did not support other business operations like materials, accounts, billing, and sales and marketing.
  • The solution
    The company deployed a Laboratory Management System and integrated other business operations as modules with it. It deployed a nationwide customer collection network called CCNET and a sales force automation system called Ccom.
  • The benefits
    All the business operations are integrated to form an effective ERP. The company is able to deliver results of tests much faster than before. And the sales force is able to share updated information with the central lab.
 
     
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