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How Databanking Labs Can Improve Data Accuracy with Remote Collection Module

One of the largest issues facing forensic databanking labs is accurate data entry. Data entry challenges can include:

  • Collection of duplicate and non-qualifying samples
  • Samples containing incomplete information
  • Lost samples
  • Manual data entry

The STACS® Remote Collection Module provides a solution for lab analysts that addresses these challenges, increasing data accuracy as well as saving time and money. The Remote Collection Module is a web-based application that integrates with STACS Database to allow sample collection agencies to electronically enter the required information for an arrestee/offender sample. This blog post will break down how our Remote Collection Module focuses on each of these common issues experienced by databanking labs.

Eliminate Duplicate Collection

Duplicate collection occurs when staff at the collecting agency (such as a police station or jail) doesn’t know that a sample has already been collected and processed, leading to unnecessary time spent entering information and collecting DNA that isn’t required. Collecting a duplicate sample wastes a collection kit and expensive reagents, as well as misusing lab analysts’ time. The duplicate collection then has to be handled by the lab by processing it, destroying it or storing it, which means the lab also needs to have the appropriate policies in place for handling duplicate samples.

By setting criteria to identify duplicate samples, the Remote Collection Module determines if a sample for an arrestee/offender has already been received. These criteria can include last name, date of birth, Social Security Number, or other elements. The collector has the option of identifying the sample as a duplicate and collecting. By not collecting, the agency saves time and money.

Identify Non-Qualifying Violations

Determining if a violation is qualifying or not can be difficult due to the complexity of the laws that regulate them and the frequency of legal changes. This complexity can mean that agencies collect samples that should not be collected, resulting in unnecessary time spent in addition to wasted collection kits and reagents. The non-qualifying collection then has to be handled at the lab and the lab analysts need to evaluate:

  • Do they need to document the receipt of the sample, destroy it or store it?
  • Do they have to develop or change their policies to adapt to these samples?

In order to ease the complexity of evaluating qualifying violations, the Remote Collection Module allows clients to customize whether every individual statute is considered qualifying for each group. For example, the system can be configured to highlight juveniles based on date of birth. If a violation is non-qualifying based on customized requirements, the system will display a message indicating that the collection is not required. The module can also be updated with a few clicks to stay current with new legislation, ensuring that agencies are collecting samples based on the most recent laws.

Ensure That Sample Submissions Contain All Required Information

Sometimes the collector misses filling out all the required fields before sending the information card to the lab. When the lab receives an incomplete card, the sample is usually placed on hold while lab staff try to contact the collector or attempt to find the information through criminal history systems.

Through the Remote Collection Module, lab analysts can set required fields in order for a sample to be submitted by collection agencies. If a piece of information is not entered, the system will highlight required fields until the information is entered. The required data can be customized to each lab’s needs, including: unique barcode, first and last name, qualifying violation, signature and thumbprint collection. Having complete information saves lab staff both time and frustration.

Decrease the Number of Lost Samples

Labs typically don’t receive advance notice of how many samples are arriving and from which collection agencies. As a result, missing samples are rarely detected. An unprocessed sample leads to the profile not being entered into CODIS and this can impact criminal cases. This situation can also lead to an increased work load for lab staff trying to hunt down samples.

Since the Remote Collection Module allows collection agencies to enter sample collection information in a web-based system, the agency can easily view what samples have been collected but not marked as received by the lab. This allows the collection agency to follow up internally to try to locate the submission or recollect in a timely manner. The digital client worklist displays all collected samples, and the lab can customize the system to flag samples if they have been present on the worklist for a certain number of days. The worklist also displays collection agency and collection date information, allowing lab staff to reach out directly when a missing sample is highlighted. This not only helps reduce the number of lost samples, but also helps the lab to manage resources by knowing how many samples are expected to be submitted.

Reduce Manual Data Entry

The majority of labs receive hand-written collection cards, which requires analysts to perform manual data entry from handwriting that can be difficult to decipher. Many analysts have likely asked: why are both the collecting agency and the lab recording the same information? The double-entering of the data slows the process down and can grind it to a halt if the information is illegible, causing the lab to have to contact the collection agency or to find the information in criminal history systems.

When the collection agency enters information into STACS Database through the Remote Collection Module, the data is immediately viewable by the lab in their portal. This allows the sample to move on to the next step of having the DNA profile generated and uploaded to CODIS.

Conclusion: Optimizing Your Lab’s Data Entry

Our Remote Collection Module is designed to help forensic databanking labs increase productivity and ensure data quality by addressing some of the most common issues associated with sample collection. By employing defined criteria and allowing collection agencies to enter sample data at the point of collection, the module saves time and money and reduces the number of lost samples. If you think STACS Database and the Remote Collection Module might be right for your lab, don’t hesitate to reach out for a consultation.

About Dr. Hays Young

Dr. Hays Young is a Field Application Specialist with a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Texas – Health Science Center. Hays previously worked as the DNA Technical Leader at the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory and joined STACS DNA in 2016. In his spare time, he enjoys scuba diving and underwater photography.

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