The Best LIS and LIMS Vendors (2021) and the Advantages They Offer to their Laboratory Clients
As we enter the second quarter of 2021, pathology groups and clinical laboratories throughout the country continue to look for laboratory information systems (LIS) and laboratory information management systems (LIMS) that will help them navigate within an industry that’s in constant flux so they can become more profitable. In addition to a worldwide pandemic that’s now entering a second year, labs must also deal with fee reductions, unique payer requirements, increased regulations, claim denials, a lack of skilled technicians, and consolidation.
To thrive while addressing these challenges, laboratory operators should align their businesses with LIS vendors and LIMS vendors that understand the obstacles their facing and can help them meet today’s challenges while also preparing them for future success.
LIS vs. LIMS - What’s the Difference?
Laboratory Information Systems (LIS) and Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) are related and the terms are often used interchangeably. Both are important tools that laboratories use to manage informatics.
LIS systems are designed to prevent medical errors and manage clinical diagnostic testing within a healthcare environment. These systems track, store, and manage patient demographics and the clinical tests associated with each patient’s specimen on an individual basis. They also generate and send reports with test results to physicians for patient care.
LIMS systems are designed for use in other analytical testing environments and are often associated with research laboratories and the pharmaceutical and manufacturing industries. These systems often focus on the sample rather than the patient. That said, modern LIMS are now being built with numerous components that can further blur the distinction between the two systems.
Like LIS, modern LIMS systems now regularly include computerized provider order entry, specimen barcoding, specimen tracking, automation and rule engines, customizable reporting, interfaces with laboratory instrumentation and electronic health records, and patient and provider portals, and they can be either server-based or software as a service (Saas)-based.
Basic Parts of LIS and LIMS Systems
Lab operators, motivated by a desire to differentiate themselves in the marketplace, scale their operations, and become more profitable, are turning to lab information system vendors that offer comprehensive and flexible software solutions that address the common LIS and LIMS system problems that prevent growth:
- Issues with reliability and performance
- Insufficient functionality (lacking modules and features)
- Lack of scalability (current system can’t keep up with demand)
- Difficult to configure (requires external vendor support)
- Legacy report formats and delivery options that don’t cater to customer needs
- Inefficient workflows and manual processes
- Specimen handling and tracking workflows that lack a robust chain of custody, uniquely barcoded specimens, and verification and specimen security check-points
- Information on processes, bottlenecks, and compliance is difficult to access
- Need for Intradepartmental and external (EMR/EHRs, APIs, instruments, state registries, billing services) interoperability
Trends in Medical Lab Information System Management
Modern lab operators are looking for more than just specimen management software, they’re seeking future-ready and scalable platforms that offer the flexibility, automation, and interoperability needed to fully support technical operations, improve patient outcomes, expand services, and increase collections.
The best LIS vendors and LIMS vendors tend to be the ones that can offer infinitely configurable software solutions to meet the specific needs of each customer, no matter the size of the lab or the diagnostic discipline.
When buying a LIMS or LIS system, one should consider how it adapts to more users, interfaces, and increased services as laboratory operations expand. Additionally, the best lab information software systems benefit users with improved operational workflows, reduced labor costs, and increased profit by:
- Managing all departments and operations on one platform with no data silos
- Automating complex processes and reducing manual touchpoints
- Market differentiation to expand services and acquire new business
- Maximizing interoperability and efficiency
- Eliminating human errors and lost specimens
- Producing fully customizable reports
- Providing multiple options for report delivery
- Monitoring quality control to quickly identify, troubleshoot, and resolve problems
- Improving turnaround times
- Obtaining easily accessible business analytics (dashboards, stats, dynamic reports) from every department in real-time
Taking the best trends in medical lab information system management even further, when the best systems are also paired with a robust revenue cycle management (RCM) system that provides an end-to-end solution for all laboratory activity, including billing and finance, laboratories gain a major advantage that comes with starting the billing cycle at order inception rather than after the case has been finalized. Add further front-end billing support like verification, eligibility, and scrubbing components, and labs can drastically increase clean claim submissions and revenue, while also decreasing claim denials and compliance risk.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of LIMS Systems and LIS Systems
So what are the disadvantages, or things to be wary of, when lab operators are exploring new LIMS or LIS options for their respective laboratories?
The questions to ask include…
Can the system be configured to meet the lab’s immediate needs and is it scalable?
To change the configuration, is external development required, or can changes be made by laboratory personnel?
Following implementation, will the laboratory be charged for vendor support requests?
How often is the LIS/LIMS system updated?
How are laboratory personnel supported and trained during implementation?
The best LIS vendors and LIMS vendors take full responsibility for all of a client’s information system needs by connecting and integrating every department and lab process and removing information silos. They also offer infinitely configurable software systems that are ever-evolving and feature-rich, and then take it a step further by empowering lab users to make system changes themselves and without the need for external help. Additionally, they also offer their clients deep expertise and best practices within the laboratory domain, hands-on training during implementation and beyond, and responsive 24/7 customer service and support.
In summary, when buying a LIMS or LIS system, lab operators shouldn’t settle for a rigid and boxed software solution. Instead, they should look for a strategic partner, one that will be there to assist, tailor, and advise the laboratory team when help is needed, while also providing an innovative and adaptable platform that can grow with the business as it grows and thrives.