Cloud services provider Ancoris is helping remote workforces like SYNLAB Laboratory Services' drug and alcohol testers cut costs and boost efficiency by developing bespoke mobile services they can use on-the-go.

SYNLAB tests thousands of samples of urine, saliva, blood and hair every month to help employers rule out, identify and deter drug and alcohol use in the workplace.

© iStock/xubingruo
© iStock/xubingruo

In 2016, the company employed around 100 mobile collection technicians, who used a manual, paper-based drug-testing and data collection system that was prone to errors and repetition.

SYNLAB approached Ancoris to find an automated alternative.

"Before we engaged with Ancoris, everything was paper-based," says Scarlett Southern, project manager at SYNLAB.

"It's about five pieces of A4 paper per person that we test as well as then all of the other paperwork that goes with it like invoicing and everything else.

"Our aim in adopting a digitised process was service modulisation, but we also had so many data entry points, because we would write down on a piece of paper during a collection all the information, we would duplicate an alcohol test four times, and then it all had to go back."

Ancoris developed a system that turned SYNLAB into a digital collection service.

The solution combined a Hosted Collection Booking System, an existing Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) and a cloud-based web application connected to a mobile SafeGuard App used by collection technicians on Android devices.

In March 2017, SYNLAB began digital collections.

Requests for tests are entered into the HCBS applications as soon as they're received, and jobs are automatically added and passed on to the collection technicians' SafeGuard mobile app, which routes them to the test location.

When they arrive, Safeguard sends them a series of forms to complete before they scan the testing kit barcodes, take the sample and enter the data, which is automatically transmitted to the head office and LIMS.

"It's now just one streamlined process," says Southern. "It's data entry at one point and then that just goes straight into our information system in our lab, so we actually have all that information before the samples even arrive now, which is fantastic for us because we demand plan in the lab and can give our results a lot more quickly to our customers."

The system has helped SYNLAB remove 25,000 pieces of paper from the collection process each year and cut the time it takes to get results to clients from five days to one.

The enhanced efficiency and reduction in data entry, printing, stationary, travel expenses expected deliver a return on investment of more than 175 percent over three years.  

"We can offer our customers one streamlined process," says Southern. "Everything just looks a bit sleeker, it's more modern and it has a much more professional feel to it".

Using the cloud to deliver business transformation

Ancoris has been developing cloud and mobile services since 2008, and was one of the first Google Premiere Partners in the UK. The company helps customers move away from legacy systems to affordable cloud and mobile services.

"What we're really helping clients to do is to reduce their turnaround time for their own client engagement and improve data quality, because data doesn't have to be touched more than once," says David McLeman, Ancoris' CEO.

"We can take data at source or we can provide data to people in the field without having to enter it twice, which is pretty common still in a lot of remote workforce models.

"That in itself often generates significant cost savings because of the reduction in having to do double data entry or an admin overhead, which often exists between remote workers and head office staff."

McLeman is optimistic that improvements in cloud security and the increasing supply of data analytics on offer from public cloud companies will help drive further adoption in the future.

The combination of the benefits of the cloud and a growing realisation that transformation is essential for businesses to survive means that Ancoris can now sell new opportunities as well as responses to threats.

"That for us has been an interesting place to be," he says. "Where most industries are feeling threatened by cloud, in reality, it's a massive opportunity for our clients and I think the industry is probably slowly waking up to that."

Ancoris won Innovative Project of the Year at the techies awards 2018.