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Labeling only for your lab Every lab has its own way of identifying samples. You choose what information needs to appear on the label based on the current needs of your lab. However, it’s easy to forget that these samples could potentially be used for cross studies and research and may have a life well beyond your individual lab. As the industry continues to move toward an environment of sharing and collaboration, it’s important that your labels can be read and understood by those outside of your lab environment as well.

A number of industry-wide best practices have been identified to give you guidance on the minimal labeling requirements for sample identification. These guidelines can be customized for your individual lab but provide a baseline for the type of information that should be included on your labels. By adhering to these best practices, labs can create a common platform for identification and data consistency throughout the scientific community.

Below is a list of biospecimen identification best practices as outlined by The National Cancer Institute.1

  • Unique identifier or combination of identifiers
  • Firmly affixed to the container
  • Number or bar code
  • HIPAA regulations for human subjects
  • Information system tracks biospecimen from collection through processing, storage and distribution
  • Data used for clinical and epidemiological
  • Clear and legibly marked; able to endure storage conditions
  • Shipping log tracks shipment
  • Resources touching specimen

Additionally, it’s important to note that in order to meet these guidelines, a complete informatics system is advisable. This includes software, hardware, written documents, support and training necessary to annotate, track and distribute the biospecimens.

Labels: A powerful tool for laboratory success

In the end, labeling is a bit more complex than it may seem. But those labels can be a powerful, effective tool that impacts the overall success of not only your lab, but labs around the world. Labels can increase efficiency; improve accuracy; reduce errors; and enable a scientific community to share data, resources and learnings.

As technology continues to progress and regulatory requirements continue to expand, there’s no doubt that laboratories are going to see a number of advancements relating to labeling and identification in the future. Now is the time to implement a productive labeling system that accounts for the flow and processes of your lab—both for today and for tomorrow. The integrity of your data and the quality of your services depend on it.

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