Pathology Lab Software: Determining Which LIS System is the Best Fit for Your Laboratory
November 21, 2023
The clinical laboratory represents big business. Currently valued at around $200 billion, the global clinical laboratory service market is expected to reach a staggering $290 billion by 2028.
The secret behind this impressive growth? It's all about the rise in demand for advanced pathology lab software solutions, commonly known as laboratory information systems (LIS) and sometimes even called laboratory information management systems (LIMS). For our purposes and our audience here, we’ll use pathology lab software and laboratory information systems interchangeably.
By using these innovative laboratory information systems, labs can enhance their laboratory workflow, boost efficiency, and streamline the often complicated laboratory billing process. With these lab information system tools in hand, labs are better equipped to navigate the fast-paced and ever-changing market.
Types of Pathology Lab Software Systems
Pathology lab software terminology can be confusing. Sometimes definitions are unclear or change over time.
For example, laboratory information systems (LIS systems) and laboratory management information systems (LIMS systems) previously referred to very different concepts and lab workflow, but today their meanings virtually overlap.
Or, to take another example, the term pathology lab reporting software can be used as a synonym for laboratory information system software, but can also be used more broadly, to refer to any other pathology software used by a laboratory.
Taking it even a step further, we at LigoLab call our LIS system software an “Informatics Platform” because it goes beyond the basic tenets of LIS systems and LIMS systems in terms of features and functionality, and it serves as an end-to-end enterprise-grade pathology software solution for all medical laboratories.
LigoLab Informatics Platform includes modules for anatomic pathology, clinical laboratory, molecular diagnostics, lab revenue cycle management, and direct-to-consumer lab testing, all on a silo-free and fully integrated informatics platform that supports every role, every department, and every case, enabling medical laboratories to attain a level of efficiency that allows for differentiation in the marketplace, rapid scaling of operations, and most importantly, more profitability.
In this article, we will use laboratory software systems and pathology lab software to refer to all software systems used in a laboratory environment, and we will define commonly used systems below while also highlighting some of the many aspects that allow LigoLab to stand out amongst the competition.
What are Laboratory Information Systems (LIS)?
Laboratory information systems are the most common software suites that one will usually see in a lab.
Traditionally, the LIS systems bring all parts of a lab under one software umbrella to establish and maintain one centralized database for all laboratory departments and all laboratory workflow.
Key Features of Laboratory Information Systems
- Centralized Database: LIS systems consolidate data from all laboratory departments and processes, facilitating seamless specimen management and test result reporting.
- Compliance: LIS systems ensure adherence to guidelines from CAP (College of American Pathologists), CLIA, (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments), HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), and other regulatory agencies, mitigating compliance concerns and avoiding penalties.
- Efficient Lab Processes: LIS software manages various lab tasks, such as patient demographic data collection, specimen and test result tracking, order tracking, quality control, diagnosis and treatment recommendations, interoperability with instruments, and interfacing with third parties like physicians and insurance companies, and customer service.
- Data Analysis and Reporting: LIS systems offer robust data analysis, reporting, and audit capabilities, which help improve lab performance and decision-making.
- Digital Pathology Workflow: Modern LIS software solutions, like LigoLab's platform, enable automated and electronic lab workflow, replacing paper-based records and legacy software systems. This results in fewer errors, faster processing times, lower costs for human resources, and increased scalability.
- Lab Revenue Cycle Management (Lab RCM): By integrating the medical LIS with laboratory billing and Lab RCM processes, labs can transparently optimize their financial performance, too.
- Sample Tracking System: LIS systems ensure accurate tracking of specimens and test results, enhancing overall lab efficiency.
LigoLab’s comprehensive, all-in-one informatics platform frees its users from restrictions like paper forms and siloed software systems that cause interoperability issues. With one united software infrastructure, end-to-end data integrity is ensured.
The Power of Laboratory Information System Reporting
In the modern healthcare landscape, laboratory information system reporting has become a key aspect of clinical laboratory management. Insurance companies and other third-party payers now require labs to connect with them through automated electronic portals.
Top-notch lab information system solutions can easily accommodate this and provide pre-loaded, customizable templates that make pathology lab workflow management reporting a breeze.
Why LIS System and Lab RCM Reporting Matters
Effective pathology lab software reporting is a key aspect of clinical laboratory management.
Laboratory billing and communication with external billing services represent the backbone of any laboratory billing system, while the LIS system is all about efficiently managing patient and specimen information within the clinical lab workflow.
Leading pathology lab software providers, such as LigoLab, ensure their solutions address all laboratory information system functions as well as the laboratory billing process.
LigoLab: A Powerful and Comprehensive Pathology Lab Reporting Software
You can get a taste of the benefits of using LigoLab's laboratory information system and lab revenue cycle management solutions for reporting by accessing our free download of report template samples. Check out the examples of report templates and see how they can add value for your customers.
LIS Vendors: Meeting the Growing Demands of the Healthcare Industry
The market for pathology lab software in the U.S. amounts to almost $2 billion and is predicted to grow at 6.5 percent per year over the next decade. Most LIS vendors realize this and are responding to laboratory demands for information technology to support higher productivity, reduced costs, fewer errors, and better data management and analysis.
These needs are compounded by external pressure on laboratories to provide seamless integration with third parties such as public health agencies, payers, physicians, and lab billing services.
Legacy LIS Systems vs. Future-Ready & Scalable Laboratory Information System Solutions
Medical labs using outdated laboratory information systems lacking essential modules and features find themselves at a disadvantage. These legacy LIS systems hinder scalability and prevent labs from adapting to the evolving marketplace.
In contrast, labs that adopt future-ready, scalable laboratory information system solutions like those offered by LigoLab, can quickly adjust to market changes.
When selecting your LIS company, consider factors like the laboratory information system's scalability, integration capabilities, and available features. LigoLab offers comprehensive solutions that cater to the ever-changing healthcare landscape, ensuring labs remain competitive and efficient no matter what the future holds.
What are Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS)?
While they share many features, like centralized lab workflow, tracking of samples, analysis and diagnostic functionality, and real-time data access, they do in fact have key differences.
LIS vs. LIMS: What is the Difference?
Both laboratory information systems and laboratory information management systems play essential roles in the laboratory landscape. However, they differ in their primary focus, end-users, and complexity.
- Laboratory information systems: Prioritizes individual patient records, centered on patient data storage and management, including lab test results, catering primarily to individual needs, such as healthcare providers or patients themselves.
- Laboratory information management systems: Emphasizes sample-oriented data and laboratory operational workflows, better suited for commercial settings, processing and analyzing large data batches like complex sample data from drug trials or biological testing.
- Laboratory information systems: Designed for pathology and clinical laboratories, veterinary clinics, and hospitals.
- Laboratory information management systems: Used in commercial settings, such as pharmaceutical labs, manufacturing plants, and water treatment or food and beverage testing facilities.
Cost & Implementation
- Laboratory information systems: Usually more cost-effective and easier to implement and adjust to specific lab needs.
- Laboratory information management systems: Often come with more complex implementation protocols.
It's important to note that the distinctions between LIS software and LIMS systems are becoming less clear over time. However, understanding their key differences can help laboratories choose the most suitable pathology software for their needs.
Types of LIMS: Key Features & Compliance Standards
A laboratory information management system provides valuable data insights to various stakeholders within an organization, aiding in decision-making processes related to maintenance, operations, and product development.
Modern LIMS solutions often come equipped with essential compliance standards and guidelines to ensure optimal laboratory performance.
Key Compliance Standards in Modern LIMS Solutions
Today's LIMS solutions frequently adhere to the following compliance standards:
- ISO 17025: This international standard specifies the general requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories.
- Good Laboratory Practice (GLP): A set of principles that provide a framework for the organization and management of test facilities while ensuring the quality and integrity of test data.
- 21 CFR Part 11: The U.S. FDA's compliance rules for electronic records, that govern the criteria under which electronic records and electronic signatures are considered trustworthy and reliable.
Other Available Laboratory Workflow Management Software
Lab Revenue Cycle Management (RCM)
Lab revenue cycle management software plays a crucial role in facilitating revenue collection from patients, providers, and insurance companies while managing the laboratory billing process.
With the rapid growth of the RCM software market, from just over $80 billion in the U.S. in 2016 to $120 billion today, and an expected growth rate of 12 percent per year, lab RCM software is becoming increasingly essential for efficient and productive laboratories.
Key Benefits of Modern Lab RCM Software Solutions
Modern lab RCM software solutions offer numerous advantages by digitizing and automating the laboratory billing process, including:
- Collecting patient insurance and demographic information
- Charge capture
- Claim submission
- Payment collections
These features significantly improve revenue collection, helping laboratories navigate the increasingly complex claims reimbursement process, rising demands from third-party payers for digitalization and improved efficiency, and the shift toward value-based reimbursements.
LigoLab Informatics Platform: A Comprehensive Solution
A deeply integrated laboratory information system like LigoLab Informatics Platform provides users with multiple benefits such as:
- Real-time verification, eligibility, and scrubbing components
- Automated ICD and CPT coding
- Automated client billing
- Much more
These capabilities result in fewer denials, reduced audit risk, increased collected revenue, improved cash flow, and enhanced profitability for laboratories.
Scientific Data Management Systems (SDMS)
Scientific data management systems (SDMS) fall under the category of laboratory data management system software or laboratory data analysis software. They are designed to capture, catalog, and archive data generated by various types of laboratory instruments and applications, providing an efficient solution for handling diverse data types.
Key Features of SDMS
SDMS solutions offer several essential features that set them apart from typical laboratory information management systems, which primarily deal with homogenous data:
- Ability to handle unstructured, structured, and semi-structured data, including PDF files, images, instrument data, and spreadsheets.
- Integration of lab-generated data with administrative information, such as standard operating procedures and safety documents.
- Centralized database with easily searchable indices.
These features enable SDMS to efficiently manage heterogeneous data, streamlining laboratory workflow and data management processes.
Enhancing Research Productivity with SDMS
SDMS can also be leveraged to improve research productivity through collaborative efforts between various departments or organizations. By providing a centralized platform for data storage and management, SDMS promotes effective communication and collaboration, ultimately driving innovation and progress in the laboratory environment.
Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS)
A computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), sometimes also referred to as a CMMIS (computerized maintenance management information system), plays a vital role in helping laboratories optimize performance against the key metric of reliable uptime.
CMMS achieves this by scheduling, managing, and reporting on maintenance operations, with its database serving as a central repository for information about an organization's assets, equipment, materials, and other resources.
CMMS Features Within the LigoLab Platform
The LigoLab platform incorporates robust CMMS functionality, offering benefits such as:
- A comprehensive audit trail
- A specimen tracking and management module
These features enable users to:
- Monitor every entity and activity with user permission and visibility control
- Track each specimen with a unique identifier that ensures the chain of custody and security of the specimen
As a result, the LigoLab platform significantly reduces the likelihood of lost or misplaced orders, enhancing laboratory efficiency and security.
The Evolution & Future of Laboratory Software Systems
The future of laboratory software systems can be analyzed from two perspectives: the growth of the laboratory service market and the developments in the laboratory software systems that labs use.
A few significant factors are driving the laboratory service market growth:
- The emergence of new infectious diseases and virus strains, like Covid-19
- An aging population
- A growing awareness of preventative health measures
- The increasing importance of disease surveillance and screening
- Patients taking a more active role in their healthcare
To make the most of this growth, labs should embrace innovative technology. TestDirectly is a great example of this: it's a web-based patient engagement portal that allows for easy and accurate direct-to-consumer lab testing by connecting patients directly with labs.
Interestingly, the laboratory software system market is expanding more rapidly than the laboratory service market. Clinical labs and anatomic pathology groups are in the midst of an IT revolution, as their data-intensive work requires effective data use and reporting thanks to insurance companies and other third-party payers that are increasingly demanding automated and digital reporting.
One more factor propelling the growth of laboratory software systems is the number of labs still relying on paper-based or outdated software systems. Modern IT solutions, offering digitization and automation, are now essential to support the complex daily operations of a modern lab and enable future expansion. Adopting such software has a direct impact on improving lab efficiency and productivity.