No matter our job, we deserve great software that removes tedium and monotony. In many cases, however, we find ourselves hitting the flipper flappers on outdated solutions that cough dust when you attempt to make them interoperate with other systems.
For testing labs, whether diagnostic, genetic, or cannabis, coughing software isn’t funny. Though labs are an integral part of a modern healthcare ecosystem, they are underserved by software vendors, causing backlogs, slow treatment plans, and bad outcomes.
Where does terrible software come from, and why hasn’t it improved? The answer lies somewhere between laboratories' evolutionary challenges and software vendors’ financial incentives.
Laboratories sit at the intersection of powerful forces that affect how they work. Government regulatory frameworks expose labs to litigation and reputational damage they strive to avoid. As we saw during COVID-19, the spread of disease can require sudden upscaling to massive volume. Labs must be flexible when infection recedes to be re-kitted for other uses. The uncertain world depends on labs’ abilities to stay secure, compliant, and adaptable.
Meanwhile, traditional software vendors cling to dated business models to the detriment of testing outcomes. Traditional vendors run a product roadmap to appeal to the broadest addressable market possible, ignoring critical last-mile lab automation in favor of a generic platform with an attractive feature matrix. They earn significant revenue on professional services for setting up systems, migrating data from old systems, and supporting ongoing customization needs. The most glaring conflict of interest is that software vendors aim to protect their custom integration revenue instead of publishing secure APIs to make systems interoperability fast and easy.
Despite these issues, laboratories still have many good reasons to use lab software, including data integrity, sample analysis at scale, and the blessed power of barcode systems. The weight of these benefits keeps these software businesses running, but there must be a better way. The labs that tirelessly test drive traditional software litter the landscape only to be rewarded with software that requires more work than it saves in labor efficiencies.
The crushing need for adaptability and interoperability directly conflicts with software vendors’ militant efforts to preserve outdated systems and business models. To avoid remedying technical debt, incumbent vendors rely on inertia to perpetuate their revenue streams. Incentives are not aligned, and software improves at a glacial pace.
The good news? Advancements in software development can fix this.
While the low-code story did not start in the laboratory space, a new breed of lab software is emerging. Unlike a SaaS product with features, low-code lab software is a platform to execute a technology strategy, offering bespoke software at a lower cost than off-the-shelf solutions.
Finally, laboratories can connect eccentric equipment, interpret new data formats, and deliver reports that directly communicate the data to the growing ecosystem of healthcare professionals.
Low-code software is the answer to longstanding issues hindering lab performance for many laboratories. Now, labs can have a unique roadmap, defining the priorities they assign to new features, stakeholder portals, data sources, and integrations. With a published, out-of-the-box API, labs have an onramp to the healthcare data superhighway.