Laboratory information system

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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.[1] 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."[2]

Common LIS functions

Functions that a LIS has historically performed include, but are not limited to:[1]

  • 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
  • quality assurance of ordered tests
  • workload and management reporting

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.[3][4]

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]

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.[4][5][6]

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.[6][7]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Laboratory Information Systems" 10 August 2006. Retrieved 06 May 2011.
  2. "Quick Start Guide to Laboratory Information System (LIS) Implementation" (PDF) Association of Public Health Laboratories. Retrieved 06 May 2011.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Friedman, Bruce (04 November 2008). "LIS vs. LIMS: It's Time to Blend the Two Types of Lab Information Systems". Lab Soft News. Retrieved 09 May 2011. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "LIMS/LIS Market and POCT Supplement" 20 February 2004. Retrieved 09 May 2011.
  5. Friedman, Bruce (19 November 2008). "LIS vs. LIMS: Some New Insights". Lab Soft News. Retrieved 09 May 2011. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Hice, Randy (01 July 2009). "Swimming in the Clinical Pool: Why LIMS are supplanting old-school clinical LIS applications". STARLIMS' Laboratory Informatics Blog. Retrieved 09 May 2011. 
  7. "2011 LIMS Buyers Guide: How Do I Find the Right LIMS?" pp. 6. Laboratory Informatics Institute, Inc. Retrieved 10 May 2011.