The Main Differences Between LIS and LIMS

Global Laboratory Information Management System/LIMS Market - Industry ...

Laboratory information system (LIS) and laboratory information management system (LIMS) are terms that are sometimes used interchangeably. However, although the two overlap and are somewhat similar, they are inherently different. 

Essentially they were designed to support different laboratory types and functionality. While LIS is used to support clinical and patient-centric specimens, LIMS was intended for sample-centric laboratory requirements. This includes clinical research or other nonclinical laboratory settings. 

But, because the overlap today is so close, it might be tricky to pinpoint the difference. So, we thought we would take a look at them separately and then delve into the key differences to better understand what they offer. 

What Is a LIS?

A LIS is software that records, manages, and stores patient testing data. This is used for clinical and pathology laboratories. 

Its main features include receiving test orders, sending orders to a laboratory to analyze, tracking orders and results, and transmitting results from a searchable database. 

It can help the overall streamlining of a workflow with various tools including outreach tools, data mining capabilities, and point-of-care testing support. This whole process is essential to the determination of patient health status as well as pinpointing and developing treatments.

Who Needs a LIS?

Essentially, LIS is typically implemented in laboratories or hospitals, clinics, and public health care facilities. There are numerous LIS solutions available on the market. And if you are the owner of a new laboratory it can be hard to choose one that best meets your needs. For example, Ligolab.com offers a great solution that can help you streamline both laboratory and financial operations in your lab. 

What Is a LIMS?

Now that we have unpacked the LIS, let’s look at the LIMS system. Originally, the LIMS was established to be used for environmental, research, or commercial analysis. 

It can be used for testing in various industries including pharmaceutical, food and beverage, environmental, petrochemical, manufacturing, quality assurance, and so on. 

Its functionalities also have a broad spectrum. It includes sample management, assay data management, data mining, data analysis, and the integration of electronic laboratory notebooks (ELNs). 

In a typical workflow, you can expect the following to happen:

A large number of specimens can be tracked with LIMS. This can be done through the testing process and through various analytical procedures. 

The benefits of a LIMS include:

In most of the LIMS systems, you will find stability modules which are used to track stability testing. These determine how the quality of a drug varies with time under the influence of a variety of environmental factors (e.g., temperature, humidity, light).

Because it is used in so many industries, like the LIS, LIMS has to be really adaptable in functionality. So, functionality such as support for case-centric clinical specimens and patient data management has to be established. 

It is usually overseen by various regulatory bodies including the Department of Transportation (DOT), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The Key Differences Between the LIS and LIMS

So, just what are the differences?

In the past, it was easier to discern whether your laboratory needed a LIMS or a LIS. But in this day and age, the lines are more blurred due to functionality being so close. 

What we can say is that the most notable difference is that LIS was developed to take care of individual patient records, whereas a LIMS was designed for batch testing. In most cases, it happens when patient identities are unimportant.

The Bottom Line

So, in conclusion, what are the basic overlaps and differences between the systems?

Essentially, LIS systems are incorporating features they may not have had traditionally due to changing environments and technology. 

Similarly, both systems support data tracking, instrument interfaces, and workflow efficacy. They can also both help a laboratory manager set up calibration date reminders and maintenance schedules for analyzers or instruments to support testing accuracy. But the distinctions are getting harder and harder to make as their initial development purpose is so similar. 

The most notable difference really comes down to whether your facility is patient-centric or sample-centric. What can be said is that many features in both a LIS and LIMS accompany the traditional functionality of the other.

The environmental testing that is performed by the LIMS, for example, can actually be handled in some LISs. In the same way, the LIMS can track instrument calibrations and other LIS-like features.


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