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LIS v. LIMS – What’s the difference between the systems?

By LabLynx Staff | January 26, 2022

If you’re shopping for laboratory software, you’ve probably come across these two software systems a few times – LIS and LIMS. In healthcare laboratory informatics, LIS and LIMS systems are frequently mentioned together, leading some to assume they are the same thing. With names Laboratory Information System (LIS) and Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS), it is not a hard conclusion to draw.

While it may seem like a logical conclusion, it’s not fully correct. Saying these two systems are the same is like saying Star Wars and Star Trek are the same. There are crossover elements, sure, but their focuses are different.

Now before we get off topic with an argument over Millennium Falcon versus the Starship Enterprise, let’s define what LIS and LIMS are.

LabLynx - What is a LIS vs LIMS?What is a LIS?

LIS systems are primarily seen in the healthcare industry and are designed to report on the test results from individual patient samples. The workflows are very single sample focused with an emphasis on efficiency. The LIS’s main goal is to optimize the timeline from test requisition to result report delivery for physician review. Since LIS systems are very patient-focused, the systems also manage patient records including name, ethnicity, past test results, contact information and more making information security and HIPAA compliance a must.

What is a LIMS?

In contrast, LIMS systems are designed to report on quality results from batched sample groups in industry areas such as cannabis, agriculture, manufacturing and materials testing. Some LIMS systems have both single sample and batch sample workflows, but the system’s primary emphasis is usually on batched samples. Since LIMSs focus heavily on quality and managing multiple sample groups, a LIMS is often more robust in features and offerings than its LIS counterpart. Some of these more robust offerings are used to maintain compliance with regulatory standards that are heavily followed in industry-focused labs including ISO 17025, FDA, GALP, EPA and more.

How are they different?

The true differentiators between these two systems come down to intended use and workflow type. A LIS’s workflow is centered around the patient. As such, its features and workflows tend to be more streamlined to meet its main goal of quickly and efficiently delivering results reports for patient care. This attention to efficiency also makes LIS systems cheaper and easier to implement.

A LIMS on the other hand has sample focused workflows. In such, it is more robust in offerings and capabilities. System processes are built to manage multiple samples and complexities to deliver a full spectrum of result reports. LIMS systems are usually more expensive and time-consuming to implement because of their intricate nature, making them more commonplace in larger labs.

If they’re different, why are they mentioned together?

Though LIS and LIMS are usually different in focus and applied use, they are still mentioned together frequently because most of their features overlap. The two systems both focus on sample and test management. The key differentiator comes down to which workflow a lab needs, sample or patient focused.

Are the systems mutually exclusive?

Recently, the barriers between LIS and LIMS systems have started to erode. LIMS systems are developing more healthcare-focused features, and now it’s not uncommon for a LIMS to cross over into the healthcare industry, especially in medical research. Clinical trial, molecular diagnostic, pathology and pharmaceutical laboratories are leading the charge for more integrated LIS/LIMS systems because they require both sample and patient-focused workflows.

A hybrid LIS/LIMS system on the horizon?

This asks the question, are LIS/LIMS hybrid systems on the horizon? As demand for both patient and sample focused workflows continues to grow, lab managers are calling for informatics vendors to create a hybrid system.

LabLynx delivers a hybrid LIMS/LIS system with its ELab LIMS for HealthcareLabLynx has answered this call with our hybrid ELab LIMS for Healthcare solution. Our ELab LIMS offers a unique blend of patient and sample focused workflows. We didn’t want you to have to choose between the two, so our solution combines the best features of both LIS and LIMS systems. It offers simplified test requisition, in-system patient contact management, single and batched sample workflows, premium data security, features for regulatory compliance, feature configuration and more. Click here to learn more about ELab LIMS for Healthcare.

In return to our Star Wars v. Star Trek analogy in the beginning of this post, our hybrid ELab LIMS system is like seeing a movie where Luke Skywalker and Captain Kirk become best friends after working together to defeat Kahn with the Force. Whether with science fiction or with science technology, you don’t have to pick between your two favorites to make something cool happen. A combination of the two can be even better.