Differences Between Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) and Laboratory Information Systems (LIS)
March 29, 2022
Clinical labs and pathology groups handle vast amounts of data related to the samples they process. Patient health records include diverse information related to medical history, blood work, image scans, lab reports, and prescriptions, which need to be systematically recorded to support clinical workflows and securely manage patient data. If the laboratory is to draw evidence-based clinical insights from these data, the information needs to be organized and accessible.
Laboratory Information Systems, also know as LIS, and Laboratory Information Management Systems, also known as LIMS, are two types of laboratory management software solutions that help manage and organize this data. LIS software is most often deployed within a clinical setting (independent laboratory or hospital lab) to manage patient-centric data. LIMS software, on the other hand, is sample-centric. It is designed for analytical laboratory settings such as food manufacturing, pharmaceutical, and non-clinical testing environments.
A note before we dive deeper. While LIS and LIMS have different technical meanings, these terms are often used interchangeably in the laboratory world. In this article, we will treat them differently based on their original definitions, but be aware that not everyone draws these distinctions.
What are LIS and LIMS?
LIS and LIMS are two distinct operational systems that improve Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) within a lab by structuring the process of data collection, testing, diagnosis, and treatment. Both systems can reduce the amount of time spent in recovering data and decrease transcription errors.
While both LIS and LIMS are software solutions for streamlining patient data, they differ in their purpose, based on a particular lab’s needs. LIS focuses on patient information and test results, while LIMS focuses on test samples. For example, a patient’s medical history, demographics, test results, disease diagnosis, and treatment are processed by a LIS software solution.
What is a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS)?
LIMS is software that allows facilities to efficiently manage samples and their associated data. This enables a lab to automate workflows, produce reliable results, and track samples. Modern systems generate vast amounts of data so LIMS systems help labs to cope with this both efficiently and with a modern approach.
For example, a pathology LIMS would include data entries for tissue samples, sample processing in the laboratory, capturing data such as images or screens, and analyzing the data for insights. LIMS thus involves multiple points for data recording and structuring.
LIMS are widely used in various regulated industries as they support workflow management in adhering to the set regulations.
Benefits of LIMS
The best LIMS management systems help laboratories with product quality checking. Besides individual sample management, they also enable batch tracking. Industries like food and pharmaceutical manufacturing are required to maintain certain quality standards prescribed under the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP). The use of LIMS ensures the labs can stick to the standards set by the GMP code. With the help of LIMS, laboratories can handle complex data systems without any scope for errors. LIMS can be integrated with other business solutions for more competent data handling.
With the rapid advancement of technology, clinical LIMS have adapted to improve lab performance by automating workflows, integrating analytical instruments, and standardizing data outputs. With a LIMS, laboratory staff can track data over time and provide retrospective solutions that improve workflow efficiencies.
LIMS data management is an increasingly central component in labs due to the volume of data generated in lab environments. Without innovative automation solutions within the sample workflow, tests could be backlogged over long periods, potentially delaying the whole process.
The advantages of LIMS in a lab include the ability to track reagents and procure resources promptly. Once processes are implemented within LIMS, this also generates data, which can be used to restructure SOPs if required. This data is especially useful for bench workers and lab staff, who can use it to find faster solutions, redesign experimental setups, innovate workflows, and reuse components of the LIMS that demonstrate efficient performance.
Challenges Confronting LIMS Integration with Lab Workflows
In some cases, LIMS can be considered difficult to install and maintain. Also, no matter the system, personnel need to be trained in how to use and leverage the lab management software to the lab’s advantage. Even with a basic laboratory information management system, employees who are not acquainted with the software may build illogical workflows that prolong the time spent on the bench.
Buying a LIMS
LIMS vendors sell software that can structure large volumes of data, and then streamline it for customer use and understanding. Numerous laboratory information management system vendors offer services that enable seamless tracking of a specimen (sample) throughout its processing workflow. This facet is an important metric for the performance of the LIMS in a laboratory.
What is Laboratory Information Software (LIS)?
While a laboratory information management system manages the processing of test samples and captures data within the laboratory, LIS software focuses on collecting, processing, storing, and managing patient information and results from their clinical examination. It is a healthcare system that manages clinical data. Doctors and lab technicians use these systems to synchronize types of patient medical tests, for instance, blood tests.
There is an overlap between the functionalities of LIS and LIMS laboratory software, which pivots on the interface between the bench and clinical setting. LIS maintains patient data in a database that enables retrieval and correlation of a patient’s test results with their diagnoses and treatment.
Laboratory Information System Benefits
Examples of laboratory information systems that streamline processes related to patient data include areas of data sharing and cross-referencing. For instance, LIS enables secure data sharing with public healthcare enterprises, to inform clinical decisions. When incorporated with a hospital’s electronic health record (EHR) system, which is a standardized patient record-filing system, LIS is a module that operates patient tracking and correctly cross-references a patient with his or her lab tests.
Basic LIS software solutions, therefore, eliminate errors in the interchange between a clinical setting and the lab, through automated annotation of data points. If a doctor orders blood work for a patient, for example, they use a code to indicate which tests need to be performed. The LIS then matches this code with the lab’s specimen to ensure that the right test is performed correctly for that particular sample.
LIS and LIMS software solutions are crucial tools to support the lab workflow. The systems overlap in some functionalities but differ in their applications. The LIS is a cross-referencing, data retrieval, recording, and data storage application that can be integrated with a EHR and other third-party solutions (example: billing software) to accelerate clinical insights and operations. The LIMS, on the other hand, is a functional tool that manages specimen samples, tests, results, and tracking typically at a much large scale.
These laboratory information services thus power the machinery of data collection and analysis in healthcare. By implementing the best laboratory information management system or laboratory information system for their specific needs, laboratories can improve their accuracy and efficiency and service a broad spectrum of clients in need of a partner that can handle large numbers of samples and complex data sets.