Laboratory information system
A laboratory information system (LIS) is a software system that records, manages, and stores data for clinical laboratories. A LIS has traditionally been most adept at sending laboratory test orders to lab instruments, tracking those orders, and then recording the results, typically to a searchable database. The standard LIS has supported the operations of public health institutions (like hospitals and clinics) and their associated labs by managing and reporting critical data concerning "the status of infection, immunology, and care and treatment status of patients."
History of LIS
Advances in computational technology in the early 1960s led some to experiment with time and data management functions in the healthcare setting. Company Bolt Beranek Newman and the Massachusetts General Hospital worked together to create a system that "included time-sharing and multiuser techniques that would later be essential to the implementation of the modern LIS." At around the same time General Electric announced plans to program a hospital information system (HIS), though those plans eventually fell through.
Aside from the Massachusetts General Hospital experiment, the idea of a software system capable of managing time and data management functions wasn't heavily explored until the late 1960s, primarily because of the lack of proper technology and of communication between providers and end-users. The development of the Massachusetts General Hospital Utility Multi-Programming System (MUMPS) in the mid-'60s certainly helped as it suddenly allowed for a multi-user interface and a hierarchical system for persistent storage of data. Yet due to its advanced nature, fragmented use across multiple entities, and inherent difficulty in extracting and analyzing data from the database, development of healthcare and laboratory systems on MUMPS was sporadic at best. By the 1980s, however, the advent of Structured Query Language (SQL), relational database management systems (RDBMS), and Health Level 7 (HL7) allowed software developers to expand the functionality and interoperability of the LIS, including the application of business analytics and business intelligence techniques to clinical data.
Today, web-based and database-centric Internet applications of laboratory informatics software have changed the way researchers and technicians interact with data, with web-driven data formatting technologies like eXtensible Markup Language (XML) making LIS and EMR interoperability a much-needed reality. SaaS and cloud computing technologies have further changed how the LIS is implemented, while at the same time raising new questions about security and stability.
Common LIS functions
- patient management, including admission date, admitting physician, ordering department, specimen type, etc.
- patient data tracking
- decision support, including comparisons of lab orders with their respective ICD-9 codes
- test ordering
- quality assurance
- workload and management reporting
- workflow management
Clinical vs. anatomic pathology LIS
In clinical pathology the chemical, hormonal, and biochemical components of body fluids are analyzed and interpreted to determine if a disease is present, while anatomic pathology tends to focus on the analysis and interpretation of a wide variety of tissue structures, from small slivers via biopsy to complete organs from a surgery or autopsy. These differences may appear to be small, but the differentiation in laboratory workflow of these two medical specialties has led to the creation of different functionalities within LISs. Specimen collection, receipt, and tracking; work distribution; and report generation may vary — sometimes significantly — between the two types of labs, requiring targeted functionality in the LIS. Other differences include:
- Specific dictionary-driven tests are found in clinical pathology environments but not so much in anatomic pathology environments.
- Ordered anatomic pathology tests typically require more information than clinical pathology tests.
- A single anatomic pathology order may be comprised of several tissues from several organs; clinical pathology orders usually do not.
- Anatomic pathology specimen collection may be a very procedural, multi-step processes, while clinical pathology specimen collection is routinely more simple.
Differences between a LIS and LIMS
There is often confusion regarding the difference between a laboratory information system (LIS) and a laboratory information management system (LIMS). While the two laboratory informatics components are related, their purposes diverged early in their existences. Up until recently, LIMS and LIS have exhibited a few key differences:
1. A LIS has been designed primarily for processing and reporting data related to individual patients in a clinical setting. A LIMS has traditionally been designed to process and report data related to batches of samples from drug trials, water treatment facilities, and other entities that handle complex batches of data.
2. A LIS must satisfy the reporting and auditing needs of hospital accreditation agencies, HIPAA, and other clinical medical practitioners. A LIMS, however, needs to satisfy good manufacturing practice (GMP) and meet the reporting and audit needs of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and research scientists in many different industries.
3. A LIS is usually most competitive in patient-centric settings (dealing with "subjects" and "specimens") and clinical labs, whereas a LIMS is most competitive in group-centric settings (dealing with "batches" and "samples") that often deal with mostly anonymous research-specific laboratory data.
However, as of 2011 these distinctions have faded somewhat as some LIMS vendors have adopted the case-centric information management normally reserved for a LIS, blurring the lines between the two components further.
See the LIS vendor page for a list of LIS vendors past and present.
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