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Lessons Learned: The Impact of COVID-19 on Laboratories

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our society, including laboratories.   Labs certainly played a critical role in responding to the pandemic, from conducting diagnostic tests to researching potential treatments and vaccines. Through this experience, labs have learned several important lessons that have and will continue to shape future operations.

Five Lessons Learned

  1. The importance of agility and adaptability: COVID highlighted the importance of being able to quickly and effectively respond to changing circumstances. Labs have had to adapt to uncertainty as a result of rapidly evolving situations, from the sudden increase in demand for diagnostic testing to the development of new tests and protocols. This has emphasized the need for laboratories to be agile and adaptable, and to have the ability to quickly respond to changing needs.
  1. The need for automation and digitalization: The sudden increase in demand for diagnostic testing put pressure to process a high volume of samples quickly and accurately. This  emphasized the need for automation and digitalization, as the manual processes – often slow and prone to error – could simply not keep up. 
  1. The value of collaboration and interdisciplinary teams: COVID showed the importance of collaboration and interdisciplinary teams in addressing complex challenges. Labs had to work closely with other organizations, such as public health agencies and vaccine manufacturers, to effectively respond to the pandemic, highlighting the value of collaboration and the need for interdisciplinary teams to effectively address complex challenges.
  1. The importance of preparedness: Being prepared for unexpected events was made very clear throughout the pandemic. Recall the shifts in supply with many labs struggling to access needed tests.  If anything, it showed the importance of actually being able to quickly ramp up operations and to work with multiple suppliers.  
  1. The need for investment in research and development:  COVID highlighted the need for investment in research and development, as the race to develop treatments and vaccines demonstrated the critical importance of this work. Such investment will need to continue in order to address future challenges and ensure that they are equipped to respond effectively.

COVID-19 had a profound impact on labs not just in the US but on a global scale.  There were multiple lessons learned as noted and by incorporating these lessons, labs can continue to play a critical role in responding to future challenges and maintaining public health.

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