Most of us in the laboratory community have heard the term “LIMS,” though, in the healthcare arena, it’s probably “LIS.” And maybe we even have a vague notion of what the terms mean. But as technology becomes a bigger and bigger part of our world generally, and inevitably in the world of science and medicine, a vague notion just isn’t good enough.
Okay, so let’s start with the acronyms. “LIMS” stands for “laboratory information management system.” And “LIS” drops the “management” part and stands for “laboratory information system.” Although, for some unknown reason, it isn’t pronounced as a single-syllable word, like “LIMS,” but instead spelled out, as in “Ell-eye-ess.” So, shorten the acronym but make it longer to pronounce. Who decides this stuff??
However you spell and pronounce it, the two terms are closely related and refer to software at the heart of the modern laboratory. The difference between the two terms is explored in depth in the article “LIS vs. LIMS: Does it Matter in Healthcare?” Essentially, both are the same: the central data management software for a laboratory. But the differences revolve around a LIMS being sample-centric and a LIS being patient-centric. Both keep track of samples as they are received, processed, and reported, but where a LIS ties it all to the patient, the LIMS may report by sample, group of samples, or, possibly, the project, location, or other entity involved.
The LIS’s primary goal is to optimize the timeline from test requisition to result report delivery for physician review. Since LIS software is very patient-focused, the system manages patient records, including name, age, gender, ethnicity, past test results, ongoing conditions and medications, contact information, insurance, and more. These constitute what is known under the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Privacy Rule as personal health information, or PHI, which requires specific security measures for HIPAA compliance.
In contrast, a laboratory information management system (LIMS) system is designed to report on sample-focused workflows, both single sample and batch sample, in industry areas such as agriculture, food safety, manufacturing, and metals and mining. LIMS software focuses more heavily on quality and managing multiple sample groups. LIMS is often more robust in features and offerings than its LIS counterparts, like those used to maintain compliance with regulatory and industry standards, including ISO 17025, FDA, GALP, EPA, and more.
Features, Functions, and Flexibility of LIMS
Though LIS and LIMS are usually different in focus and applied use, they are frequently mentioned together because most of their features overlap. LIMS has grown over time to include a wide range of features that previously might have been addressed by small, single-function apps. LIS, which tend to remain rather narrowly focused, have also grown over time, though to a lesser extent. These apps can include:
- Inventory management
- Instrument calibration and maintenance management
- Report design
- Workflow management
- Contact management (CRM)
- Client portals
The systems providing the most return on investment (ROI) are also highly user-configurable, extending their usable lifetimes significantly. Again, this is more evident in LIMS solutions than the more narrowly focused LIS products.
It is also worth noting that systems that require development (writing code) for most changes, even though they may be less expensive initially, often prove more expensive – in time and money – over the long term. Many lower-end systems that may have an attractive look-and-feel can remain very limited as changing needs outstrip capabilities, and their company may not have the services available to make changes or are unacceptably slow in responding, even when that support requires additional cost.
The LabLynx ELab LIMS
The LabLynx 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 LIMS software solution combines the best features of both LIS and LIMS. ELab LIMS offers simplified test requisition, in-system patient contact management, single and batched sample workflows, premium, HIPAA-compliant data security, features for other regulatory compliance (ISO/IEC17025, 21 CFR, EPA, FDA, others), custom configuration capabilities, and more.
The LabLynx ELab LIMS is our flagship offering, the product of over two decades of development since its initial introduction as the world’s first cloud (web browser-based) LIMS at Pittcon in 1997. The LabLynx ELab LIMS solution was designed right from the start to provide complete functionality as a data-driven framework. The user can easily configure ELab LIMS to fit your healthcare lab’s processes, size, and budget. You don’t need to pay for expensive development every time you want to make changes. Your LabLynx LIMS solution will come pre-configured for your industry, and we will train you and help you fine-tune it to exactly your specs, initially and as you progress over time.
Whether you are a single-user start-up or a global enterprise lab, the ELab LIMS solution is perfect for your lab. Everything from the sample receiving screen to instrument management can be set up with fields and parameters you choose. Each test has the limits, ranges, and specifications you want, and you can change those tests without requiring new code development.
You can even add a new department or entirely separate lab within minutes. Then you need only set out who has access, to what levels, what types of samples it processes, and what tests are done, and you can start operations.
The LabLynx ELab LIMS is the most scalable LIMS solution there is. No other LIMS has a longer history of cloud technology or contains a greater inventory of features and functions. Its capabilities comprise a long list, from extensive and granular administrative and access-related controls to flexible user configurations and various laboratory process management areas. Some of these include:
- Sample Group Receiving
- Standard analysis report by single samples
- Item and Specs Management
- Orders Management
- Entity (Client) & Contact Management
- File/Document Management
- Supervisor and Technician Worklists
- Inventory Management
- Test and QC Test Management
- Instrument Maintenance/Calibration Tracking
- Training Tracking
- Object Tracking – Check in/out of storage locations, transfer of custody of samples, inventory, etc.
- QC Charts (Basic)
- Report Management Tools
- Labels and Worksheet: This item includes the configuration of the sample label and analytical batch worksheet (one of each).
- Data Warehouse: Configure data warehouse archive table, with all results-related fields and advanced filter for data access/mining
Additional features/functions and tasks/services are available according to any requirements identified through demos and meetings leading up to the eventual contractual agreement.
We at LabLynx look forward to an initial meeting and further communications, and we are excited to provide the comprehensive long-term laboratory data management solution that will stand the test of time as our partnership grows over the coming not years but decades. We are excited to work together with you to realize the successful establishment of a shared vision that is mutually rewarding both now and for a long time to come. Please get in touch with us here, and we will contact you to set up an initial meeting!