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Biopreserv Biobank. 2012 Feb;10(1):48-54.

Automated Web-Based Request Mechanism for Workflow Enhancement in an Academic Customer-Focused Biorepository.

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Department of Pathology and Immunology, Washington University School of Medicine , St. Louis, Missouri.


Informatics systems, particularly those that provide capabilities for data storage, specimen tracking, retrieval, and order fulfillment, are critical to the success of biorepositories and other laboratories engaged in translational medical research. A crucial item-one easily overlooked-is an efficient way to receive and process investigator-initiated requests. A successful electronic ordering system should allow request processing in a maximally efficient manner, while also allowing streamlined tracking and mining of request data such as turnaround times and numerical categorizations (user groups, funding sources, protocols, and so on). Ideally, an electronic ordering system also facilitates the initial contact between the laboratory and customers, while still allowing for downstream communications and other steps toward scientific partnerships. We describe here the recently established Web-based ordering system for the biorepository at Washington University Medical Center, along with its benefits for workflow, tracking, and customer service. Because of the system's numerous value-added impacts, we think our experience can serve as a good model for other customer-focused biorepositories, especially those currently using manual or non-Web-based request systems. Our lessons learned also apply to the informatics developers who serve such biobanks.

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