Differences Between Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) and Laboratory Information Systems (LIS)
February 19, 2024
Clinical and reference labs and pathology practices handle vast amounts of data related to the specimens 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 lab workflow and securely manage patient data and sample tracking. If the medical laboratory is to draw evidence-based clinical insights from these data sets, the information needs to be organized and accessible within a proper pathology lab management system.
Laboratory information systems (LIS meaning medical), also known as LIS Systems, and laboratory information management systems (LIMS full form), also known as lab LIMS, are two types of pathology lab reporting software solutions that help manage and organize this data. Laboratory information system software is most often deployed within a clinical setting (for instance an anatomic pathology LIS in an independent laboratory or a medical LIS or healthcare LIS in a hospital) to manage patient-centric data. Lab information management system software, on the other hand, is generally 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 lab information systems (LIS lab) and laboratory information management systems (lab LIMS) are lab terms that have different technical meanings, these terms are often used interchangeably in the laboratory world. In this article, we will treat them differently, meaning as LIS vs LIMS based on their original definitions even though not everyone draws these distinctions between them.
LIMS vs LIS: Comparing the Two Laboratory Software Systems
For any lab to process more than 100 cases per day, a laboratory information management system (LIMS) from a LIMS provider or a laboratory information system (LIS) from a LIS company is a must. These laboratory software systems from lab vendors enable mid-to-large-scale laboratories to leverage diagnostic lab software technology to run efficiently and scale their operations.
Put simply, a robust lab LIMS or LIS system has the power to unlock bottlenecks and barriers that otherwise would keep an organization from growing.
Lab information systems and laboratory information management systems are two distinct diagnostic lab software. Both improve Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) by structuring the process of data collection, testing, diagnosis, and treatment. Both lab LIMS and lab information systems also reduce the amount of time spent recovering data and decrease transcription errors.
While both laboratory software systems represent laboratory workflow management solutions for streamlining lab data, they differ in their purpose, based on a particular lab’s needs. Laboratory information system functions are medical laboratory solutions that focus on patient information and test results, while LIMS lab management software focuses on test samples. For example, a patient’s medical history, demographics, test results, disease diagnosis, and treatment are processed by a laboratory information system (also known as a medical laboratory information system or a pathology information system).
What is a Laboratory Information Management System?
Laboratory information management system software allows testing facilities to efficiently manage samples and their associated data. This enables a lab to automate lab workflow (such as sample tracking) and produce reliable results. A lab information management system does just as its name states, managing vast amounts of data at various stages of lab operations (such as sample management, workflow management, inventory management, etc.) with these functions serving to streamline laboratory operations, improve data integrity, enhance productivity, and ensure compliance with regulatory standards.
A laboratory information management system (lab LIMS) is widely used in various regulated industries because it supports laboratory workflow management while adhering to set regulations.
Examples of LIMS systems include the following.
- An environmental lab using a laboratory information management system to monitor water quality, analyze air and soil samples, and ensure compliance with environmental regulations imposed by government agencies.
- A food and beverage laboratory using LIMS lab management software to manage food safety testing, track ingredients, and ensure compliance with food safety standards.
- A chemical laboratory using a lab LIMS to manage chemical inventory, track hazardous materials, and ensure compliance with safety regulations.
Benefits of Lab Information Management Systems
The best LIMS lab information management systems help laboratories with quality assurance and quality control. Besides individual sample tracking 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 lab information management systems ensures that the labs can stick to the standards set by the GMP code. With the help of LIMS lab management software, laboratories can handle complex data systems without any scope for errors. The best LIMS can also be integrated with other laboratory software systems for even more efficient data handling and reporting.
With the rapid advancement of technology, laboratory information management systems have adapted to improve lab performance by automating lab workflow, integrating analytical instruments, and standardizing data outputs. With a modern laboratory information management system, laboratory staff can track data over time and provide retrospective solutions that improve workflow efficiencies.
Data management is an increasingly central component in labs due to the high volume of data generated in these environments. Without innovative automation solutions for sample tracking and lab workflow, tests could be backlogged over long periods, potentially delaying the whole process.
Other advantages of a laboratory information management system include the ability to track reagents and procure resources promptly. Once processes are implemented within the LIMS lab management software, this also generates data, which can then 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 lab workflow, and reuse components of the laboratory information management system that demonstrate efficient performance.
Challenges Confronting LIMS Lab Management Software
In some cases, lab information management systems can be considered difficult to install and maintain. Also, no matter the lab LIMS or the LIMS vendors, personnel need to be trained to use and leverage the LIMS lab management software to improve laboratory workflow management. Even with a basic laboratory information management system, employees who are not acquainted with the LIMS software may build illogical workflows that prolong the time spent during processing.
Buying a Laboratory Information Management System from LIMS Vendors
LIMS vendors sell LIMS lab management software that can structure large volumes of data and then streamline it for customer use and understanding. Numerous LIMS vendors and LIMS providers offer services that enable seamless sample tracking throughout its processing workflow. This facet is the most important metric for the performance of a lab LIMS.
What is a Laboratory Information System (LIS)?
A LIS laboratory information system focuses on collecting, processing, storing, and managing patient information and results from their clinical examination. It is a clinical laboratory workflow management solution that manages patient and sample data. Doctors and lab technicians use these LIS systems to synchronize types of patient medical tests, for instance, blood tests.
There is an overlap between the functionalities of LIS system software and lab LIMS software, which pivots on the interface between the bench and clinical setting. LIS systems maintain patient data in a database that enables quick retrieval and correlation of a patient’s test results with their diagnoses and treatment.
Laboratory Information System (LIS) Benefits
Examples of laboratory information systems that streamline processes related to patient data include areas of data sharing and cross-referencing. For instance, a lab information system 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, the laboratory information system software manages patient sample tracking and correctly cross-references a patient with his or her lab test results.
Basic LIS model 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 system then matches this code with the lab’s specimen to ensure that the test is performed correctly for that particular sample.
Also noteworthy is the fact that the best laboratory information system software also includes innovative laboratory billing solutions (billing software for labs) that are embedded within the LIS software to create an all-in-one solution that covers a medical lab’s technical and financial operations.
Laboratory Information Systems and Laboratory Information System Companies
Modern laboratory information systems streamline and automate processes, creating leaner, more accurate, scalable, and more efficient operations while providing complete visibility into core business processes.
The best LIS systems and the best laboratory information system companies can manage all departments and operations (including financial operations) with no data silos and no synchronization of master files (clients, tests, physicians, insurance, pricing, etc). They also eliminate human errors and lost specimens with error-free sample tracking, maximize efficiency and connectivity with engines that support rules, automation, and interoperability, improve turnaround times with intuitive designs that minimize the need for clicks and support macros, enable the creation of customizable lab reports and the delivery of these reports in multiple ways to cater to client preferences, support remote access for orders and results retrieval, provide valuable real-time business analytics, and minimize risk with compliance verification at every stage.
To learn more about laboratory information functions that make a LIS system a modern one, contact LigoLab and request a LIS software demo.
LIS vs LIMS: Laboratory Workflow Management Conclusions
In the debate over LIS vs LIMS, one thing is certain. LIS systems and LIMS lab management software solutions are crucial tools to support laboratory workflow management. These laboratory software systems do overlap in some functionalities but differ in their applications. The LIS system is a cross-referencing, data retrieval, recording, and data storage application that can be integrated with an EHR and other third-party solutions (for example lab billing with laboratory revenue cycle management software) to accelerate clinical insights and technical and financial operations. The laboratory information management system, on the other hand, is a functional tool that in most cases manages industrial specimen samples, tests, results, and tracking.
These laboratory software systems thus power the machinery of data collection, management, and analysis. By implementing the best lab LIMS or the best laboratory information system software 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, no matter the type of testing.