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Easier Integration Between Labs Could Speed Up Medical Discoveries

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Even though people are taking better care of themselves these days, it seems like every day a new medical issue crops up. Scientists’ recent discovery of mutant proteins called prions that cause brain diseases is just one example. But for every new disease, there is a new discovery.

Rapid advances in medicine are giving people around the world hope that a cure for their disease or ailment may be right around the corner. This new wave of treatments and medications is possible because laboratories are sharing more information than ever before. This type of mastermind thinking from diverse groups is leading to better decision-making and improved results.

Companies and Tools That Make Medical Collaboration Possible

The sharing of medical information is considered so critical that requirements for an electronic health records (EHR) system were incorporated into the Affordable Care Act. But the information sharing goes well beyond physicians to labs and research centers that are testing new medical applications.

For research facilities, collaboration wasn’t always easy. The medical community is one that thrives on working together, but a number of issues made sharing information in the past either impossible or a security risk that researchers weren’t willing to take. Global initiatives and innovations in sometimes unexpected places have now made it possible for laboratories around the world to share information and consult with one another in real time.

Companies outside of the medical field are stepping in to make this important collaboration possible. Of course, chief among them are tech companies that provide advanced software and communication infrastructures. However, there are also companies such as highly specialized lab movers that securely transport biological material from one facility to another. The ability to move samples and materials between labs essentially brings the research to the facility where it can be best utilized instead of it sitting around going unused.

The government has also stepped in to encourage critical information sharing among researchers. One such step was the Supreme Court ruling in 2013 that genes couldn’t be patented. This eliminates a person or company’s ability to safeguard information for their own use. Governments around the world are also making investments in protecting against cyber attacks so that sensitive information sharing between technology companies and government entities is safeguarded.

People within the information technology (IT) community have also given their time and energy to help solve more simplistic problems like translation as well as complex issues such as improving manageability of massive databases. Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) are now widely used so that information can be shared among all lab stakeholders, both inside and outside of the facility.

Anyone who doubts the importance of information sharing in medicine need only look at the recent debate surrounding Myriad Genetics. After losing the right to patent the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes and provide the sole means of testing for them, Myriad Genetics was still left with a significant amount of patient data. Even though they now have the ability to share this data with other research facilities, the company decided not to do so. It immediately sparked a backlash within the medical community because that data could be used by other researchers to solve mysteries surrounding breast cancer.

Together researchers are much better equipped to tackle today’s most pressing medical problems. As information sharing becomes easier we can expect more life-changing discoveries to be made and more lives to be saved