LIMS Data Migration: Bringing Order from Chaos

LIMS Data Migration: Bringing Order from Chaos | LabLynx Resources

Implementing a new laboratory information management system (LIMS) gives you a chance to start fresh. From the moment your LIMS goes live, the data that drives your lab is in one convenient location.

But what happens to the records from your old system? Legacy spreadsheets and databases may contain important information your lab needs to serve customers or comply with regulations. But issues with simply getting to those data could undermine your lab’s productivity.

LabLynx data migration services turn your legacy data into an accessible resource. Part of the LabLynx services suite, our data migration processes streamline the transition to your new LIMS and optimize your lab’s efficiency.

To illustrate how we can rescue even the most chaotic situation, let’s look at how LabLynx data migration services helped a state university bring order to its COVID-19 testing operation.

Bringing structure to an accidental organization

In early 2020, the SARS-CoV-2 virus was spreading exponentially. Commercial testing labs could not meet demand, stretching their regular turnaround times to weeks. Public health officials in one state developed a plan to increase testing capacity. This plan made a network of in-state reference laboratories, including a state university campus, responsible for providing much-needed testing for nursing homes, prisons, and other group settings.

Going from zero to light speed has consequences

Although the university had not provided public-facing testing services, it stepped up to the challenge. The university purchased reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing systems and deployed them in various campus facilities. Doctors, nurses, lab technicians, and medical students were recruited for analysis and data entry. Across the state, nursing homes and other facilities sent a flood of specimens to the university.

It wasn’t long before the Herculean, ad hoc, get-it-done approach to scaling a high-throughput testing operation showed its weakness. Turnaround times lengthened, testing accuracy became inconsistent, and, worst of all, people began receiving the wrong test results.

Corralling data sources into a LIMS

The university knew it needed to unify its disparate testing operations and turned to LabLynx. The new LIMS solution would enforce standard operating procedures (SOPs) and store data within a single system.

But first, something had to be done with the existing data. The university stood up COVID-19 labs as equipment arrived. Capacity was the priority, not standardization. Simply uploading data into the LIMS was impossible as each lab’s data were too inconsistent. Causes of lab-to-lab variation included:

  • Spreadsheets and databases that served similar purposes had different structures.
  • Each lab used slightly different field names and data formats.
  • Manual data entry introduced many errors.
  • Inexperienced staff interpreted information differently as they entered data.

Within two weeks, LabLynx migration services brought everything together. Our team mapped every data source to the LIMS database, reviewed and cleaned all records, and conducted thorough tests before transferring the university’s legacy COVID-19 test data into the LIMS.

With the new LIMS, the university resumed 24-48 hour turnaround times and reissued hundreds of thousands of test results.

LIMS Data Migration Bringing Order from Chaos

What are the benefits of data migration to the LIMS?

In this example, data migration gave our client a clean baseline for building an effective testing program. Several other reasons lead our clients to choose data migration.

Data integrity

Leaving your old data sources in place forces your staff to transfer information themselves. Unfortunately, each person will make their own decisions about transferring the information, such as choosing how many significant figures to use. Over time, case-by-case data transfers will undermine data integrity in your LIMS.

A formal data migration process applies a consistent methodology to ensure the integrity of your legacy data.

Lab efficiency

Hunting for information in legacy systems and then cleaning it up takes time that people ought to spend in the lab. In addition, keeping older systems functional so data remain accessible consumes resources your lab needs for current operations.

Investing in data migration reduces the resources your lab wastes to preserve unused legacy systems.

Customer experience

Your testing services may depend on presenting the historical context of test results. For example, used oil analysis must tell manufacturers how contamination progresses in their machinery.

Data migration places these historical data in your LIMS for easy inclusion in your test reports.


Many regulations’ data retention rules expect labs to have ready access to information for five years or more. Leaving those data scattered across aging systems risks compliance violations.

Other regulations require labs to manage data access. For example, patient privacy regulations require strict limits on medical record access. Developing extra processes to secure legacy systems adds to a lab’s compliance burden.

Consolidating your lab’s records into your LIMS simplifies compliance. You quickly meet auditors’ requests for old data. In addition, using your current data security processes eliminates extra work from your compliance efforts.

What to expect from the data migration process

As we work with our clients to scope their LIMS solution, the LabLynx team is already working on the data migration process.

We conduct site visits and interview stakeholders to understand what they need from their new ELab LIMS. These conversations include discussions about the data stored in their existing and legacy systems.

Our team creates an inventory that identifies the workstations, back-office computers, corporate servers, or cloud-based services that store important lab data.

The next step is to evaluate the lab’s data to answer questions such as:

  • Does the hardware still run?
  • Who has the system and application passwords?
  • What export protocols can we use?
  • How are the data structured and sorted?

This information guides the development of the new LIMS since its database will store the same information. With the LIMS database design complete, we can begin mapping the lab’s existing data to the LIMS.

Consider something as straightforward as the date a customer places an order. The lab’s various systems may use field labels like “Order Date,” “Request Date,” or “Requisition Date.” Each system may use a different format, such as YYYY-MM-DD or MM-DD-YYYY. Similar variations may occur within a system if people entered data manually.

Our mapping process creates a set of rules for making the existing data consistent with how the new LIMS stores records.

Before the old data go anywhere, we work with our client to develop a migration plan. This plan defines how we prepare every data source, transform the data, and test the migration before moving data into the LIMS.

The plan also includes a timeline that ensures the most recent data generated in the old system is there when the new ELab LIMS goes live.

Learn more about LabLynx LIMS data migration services

Data migration to your new LIMS is an investment that can provide immediate returns to your lab’s productivity, customer service, and compliance. This value makes LabLynx data migration services a common choice by our clients.

You can learn about our other services in the article Rounding Out Your LIMS with LabLynx Services. Or contact us to find out more about how a LabLynx LIMS solution can transform your lab.

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