The difference between Laboratory Information System (LIS) and Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) is that these are two very popular informatics tools, which are fairly easily confused. While the two are related, their purposes are entirely different. Here are the striking differences between the two:
LIS is patient based. It stores and manages patients’ data and their test results. A LIS system includes patient-centric features such as:
Tracking, storing, and managing a patient’s demographics and associated sample information
Managing clinical tests performed on samples and their outcomes
Generating compliant patient reports
LIMS, on the other hand, is a comprehensive software tool used for centralizing laboratory’s operational workflows and is sample centric rather than patient centric. The data it processes or analyzes includes large batches of complex sample data from drug trials*, biological testing, water treatment facilities etc.
Kits Management: Multiple operating centers, kit preparation, shipping and tracking
Storage Management: Freezer quality control, location management and tracking
Audit Trail: Record of the series of activities performed on a sample
Are there any crossover features common to both?
Today, LIS has evolved from more than just managing patient information. LISes manage the testing results and sample details associated with a patient. Similar to LIMS, LIS can now import data from instruments and other sources. Newer LIS systems can even track sample location and report testing status, allowing more flexible workflows from a clinical lab’s perspective.
Likewise, LIMS systems which were historically limited to patient sample management, are now offering comprehensive auditing for patient testing similar to LIS. Recording patient samples with full chain of custody is important in LIS for tracking the level of access rights (read/write permissions) to a patient’s record. This is now implemented in LIMS systems as well because users are not only interested in who reads a record, but also who changes or deletes it.
Billing management, a feature of a LIS system–especially in private healthcare systems– is finding its way into a LIMS system. Billing and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) modules help manage and streamline accounting and patient information.
To summarize, the difference between LIS and LIMS is that they have started infringing upon each others dominion to outperform and serve several markets at a time. Their distinct features and functionality are being unified. A LIMS system delivers a confluence of functionality between a traditional LIS, handling patient data, and a traditional LIMS, managing work flows across a lab, right from sample tracking to results reporting.
Which one is better for my lab, LIS or LIMS?
If you are a pathology, clinical lab, veterinary clinic or a hospital dealing with patient-centric (“subjects” and “specimens”) data, opt for a LIS system. An LIS must satisfy the reporting and auditing needs of hospital accreditation agencies, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), and Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA), the United States federal regulatory standards) guidelines.
If you are a large facility handling large data sets –group-centric, we are talking about inputs of large batches of samples at a time– rather than a single input, LIMS is a better option. LIMS is used by many private and commercial organizations such as environmental, pharmaceutical, research, food and beverages, manufacturing, mining, pharmaceutical and petrochemical works. A LIMS system needs to satisfy good laboratory practice (GLP) and 21 CFR Part 11 (the US FDA’s compliance rules for electronic records) guidelines.
When you talk about price, LIS is more cost-effective than LIMS, easier to implement, and can be tweaked according to a lab’s requirement. Traditional LIMS software is expensive and difficult to implement since different labs have different/specific requirements and versions. With significant advances happening in cloud computing, development efforts are shrinking, and flexible payment options are being offered, labs can easily opt for a Cloud-Based LIMS as an alternative to LIS.