What is the difference between a LIS and a LIMS?

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A discussion was almost started about the differences between a LIMS and LIS. I have created this discussion so we can all weigh in on the differences between these 2 systems.

Please to read the entire article.

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Posted by John Jones (Discussions: 368, Comments: 3053)
Replied on March 1, 2012 8:24 pm
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To make a long story short, I see a LIS as simply a LIMS that is spelled without the M in it. A LIS is designed specifically for clinical testing labs while a LIMS is designed for any type of lab.

In reviewing LIS products in the past, I noted that they were hardcoded generally around the standardized clinical tests. The terminology and reports are also hard coded around that type of lab. This makes them less flexible but less expensive and easier to implement as long as you do things the way the LIS does things and as long as you have a clinical testing lab.
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Posted by John Jones (Discussions: 368, Comments: 3053)
Replied on March 1, 2012 7:00 pm
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I'm by no means an expert, but having done some research on LIMS for the past couple of months, based on everything I've come across so far and people I've spoken to, I get the impression that, as John suggested, LIMS and LIS are for all intents and purposes the same thing.

For some reason, LIMS for hospital-based laboratories that deal with patients, became known as LIS at some point. As far as I can tell, dropping the M from the name doesn't reflect the differences in the types of labs that LIS and LIMS serve. The difference between the two is purely related to the functionality that they provide.

I found an interesting article on the subject (http://labsoftnews.typepad.com/lab_soft_news/2008/11/liss-vs-limss-its-time-to-consider-merging-the-two-types-of-systems.html). It seems many people don't really consider the two to be different, and don't use the term LIS. There definitely seems to be a case to be made for the two evolving to be very much the same thing, according to this article.
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Posted by Jane de Lartigue (Discussions: 2, Comments: 17)
Replied on March 1, 2012 7:00 pm
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Jane, I agree with the article posted. I think that LIMS & LIS should be combined and called LIMS. Clinical is just one of many industries served by LIMS and in the case of clinical a lot of people call the LIMS a LIS.

I personally would like to try and end the distinction and simply call it LIMS. Unless there is a solid logical objection, I will have Shawn combine LIMS and LIS into one list and the distinction will be by industry.
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Posted by John Jones (Discussions: 368, Comments: 3053)
Replied on March 1, 2012 7:00 pm
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Except if you go down the list of active vendors on the LIS vendor page, you'll notice a majority of them are calling their products a LIS or something similar: http://limswiki.org/index.php/LIS_vendor

Examples:

* American Soft Solutions Corp.'s PROLIS - "Q: What PROLIS stands for? A: Professional Lab Information System"

* Antek HealthWare, LLC's LabDAQ - "Developed over the course of 20 years with feedback from countless physicians and laboratory personnel, LabDAQ has become the nation's leading Laboratory Information System, used in over 2,400 sites nationwide."

* Benetech, Inc.'s G*LIS - "Benetech's clients enjoy these benefits: LIS interface expertise"

* Clin1, LLC's CLIN1 - "Whether you accession 10 or 10000 samples per day, CLIN1 LIS can manage your laboratory information accurately and efficiently."

The list goes on and on. Yes, when I wrote the LIS article ( http://limswiki.org/index.php/Laboratory_information_system ) I took into account the blurring lines between LIMS and LIS, citing several sources to that fact. The fact remains, however that there are 1. plenty of companies still marketing products called "LIS," and 2. while the distinction between the two has become less clear over the past decade, the term "LIS" is still known and used by many in the clinical, hospital, and public health sectors.

I believe it's premature to just toss out that recognized demographic and blindly lump LIS products with LIMS. A fair compromise in my opinion would be to include a statement at the top of the LIMS vendor page stating "if you're specifically looking for a clinical- or hospital-based LIS, please see the LIS vendor page."

I know I don't have the experience you do, John, but I think as long as there's an identifiable market for LIS, we shouldn't just merge the two types of software prematurely. It's something that may warrant attention in a few years, especially if the LIS market further erodes and LIS vendors start referencing their systems in a different way.
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Posted by sdouglas@writediteach.com (Discussions: 0, Comments: 191)
Replied on March 1, 2012 7:00 pm
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Shawn, I reluctantly agree with you on this because you are correct, the market recognizes it this way. I don't like it because it makes things messy on the Wiki but confused market users is worse than a messy Wiki.

Now I know you are going to be clumping vendors by Industry to make the list of more use. I know you will have a category called Clinical or something like that. So I know that LabLynx will be in that category but will the LIS vendors be in it as well even though that is on the LIMS page? I think they should.

This way we keep the LIS page but add all the LIS guys under the clinical industry on the LIMS page. How else can this be dealt with?
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Posted by John Jones (Discussions: 368, Comments: 3053)
Replied on March 1, 2012 7:00 pm
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You're correct, John. I haven't had a chance to address the other laboratory informatics products like LIS and ELN yet, but an industry is an industry. I currently have the categories separated as "LIMS vendors by industry." However, there are a number of ways to get around this. It's a little complicated to explain here, but I can send you a few of my ideas. In the end, we'll make sure there's an easy way to see ALL laboratory informatics products — regardless of program type — by industry. It has been in my long-term plans, but all of the focus has currently been on LIMS. We'll get there.
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Posted by sdouglas@writediteach.com (Discussions: 0, Comments: 191)
Replied on March 1, 2012 7:00 pm
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Having now implemented an LIS as well as several LIMS, I can tell you they are the same thing :). The challenges can be a bit different between industries. While I agree with John that it would be nice to call them the same thing, people within the industry may not get it. I do have a habit at the office of interchanging terms, so that at least a small group of people within the pathology biz will know that both terms mean the same thing.
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Posted by Jeffrey Lee (Discussions: 5, Comments: 109)
Replied on March 2, 2012 7:00 pm
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Terry, I do think that would be a good survey but I think I can guess the outcome based upon the way you ask the question. I would be very surprised to see a LIS used outside of the clinical lab setting but I can think of a bunch of LIMS vendors who offer their product in the clinical setting and they are very competitive to LIS since they do come preconfigured to just what a clinical lab needs. Speaking for LabLynx, those implementations are our fastest implementations and you are exactly correct about the billing side of things... very complicated but most of our clients use 3rd party billing services and we transmit and HL7 file to those 3rd party billers. The billing software is extremely important but we have found that the operator of that software who knows all the insurance junk not to mention medicare junk are really the ones who bring in the payments to the labs. It is not an easy push button task. It takes people on telephones to get paid and they really have to know the payment codes. It is an industry unto itself (billing I mean). I still think LIS is just a LIMS configured for clinical.
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Posted by John Jones (Discussions: 368, Comments: 3053)
Replied on March 2, 2012 7:00 pm
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At the same time, the LIS in a pathology lab can require a greater degree of customization to really be effective, so the lines can blur a bit more. I do agree that the billing is important, although not terribly complex depending on the billing system being used. In my case, we are using biz talk to handle HL7 coding of the billing data from the LIS. The structure in the LIS is pretty simple.

Also, the LIS, depending on the specifics of its environment, can require a more robust database with more robust querying functions. The ability to mine data for retrospective studies (suitably stripped of its personal identifiers) and or collect data for prospective data is very much governed by the nature of the underlying database.

Even within LIMS, you can have different focuses based on the industry served. I think it would be better to have Clinical LIMS, or Pharma LIMS, or Environmental LIMS to differentiate. OTOH, I'm probably tilting at windmills.
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Posted by Jeffrey Lee (Discussions: 5, Comments: 109)
Replied on March 2, 2012 7:00 pm
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Jeff, I have also found that clinical diagnostic labs with specialty genetic testing do not fall well under what is typically called LIS and the client base in this area start out looking at LIS because many of the lab folks are familiar with LIS and then find out the class of app called a LIMS and then they see how it works and come to the conclusion that a LIMS works better in that case.

With respect to all the different types of LIMS... I think the list of LIMS on LIMSwiki proves out your point. There are hundreds of LIMS vendors because of all the different types of labs. That tells me that a lot are hard coded around a certain industry just like the LIS is.

There are a number of enterprise class LIMS that configurable, data driven and have pre-built configuration templates for specific industries. I know that LabLynx is that way but I have seen it advertised that Labware also is that way. I think Autoscribe may also be that way but I am not sure.

Anyway there are pluses and minuses to both ways but in the end the customer needs to look at each option and pick the best technical and business fit (just stating the obvious, sorry).
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Posted by John Jones (Discussions: 368, Comments: 3053)
Replied on March 2, 2012 7:00 pm
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Terry, one observation from your comments... it sure looks like you have done some work in the clinical area. All the things you mention strike home for me. Everything you have pointed out is very true for the bulk of the clinical labs out there.

BTW, I and a few of the LabLynx staff are on a pilot team that is working on developing the ONC standards for integrating Lab results with EHR's. I am a bit hard headed in the meetings because I refuse to say LIS and only ever say LIMS. :-)

Here is the project: http://wiki.siframework.org/LabLynx+Pilot+Brief

This is a pretty interesting pilot project.
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Posted by John Jones (Discussions: 368, Comments: 3053)
Replied on March 2, 2012 7:00 pm
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LIMS sounds better - more robust. There's something wishy-washy sounding about LIS.
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Posted by Jason Pelish (Discussions: 2, Comments: 36)
Replied on March 3, 2012 7:00 pm
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Jason, that is an interesting perspective. Personally and professionally I find the word LIMS works better because it is a 4 letter word :-) Everyone likes 4 letter words. If you stub your toe, just say LIMS, LIMS, LIMS....

Also, LIMS is easier to say if you have a lisp. Try saying LIS with a lisp.
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Posted by John Jones (Discussions: 368, Comments: 3053)
Replied on March 3, 2012 7:00 pm
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I agree, LIS sounds like it is missing something - like the M for management :)
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Posted by Gelsomina P. (Discussions: 0, Comments: 7)
Replied on March 3, 2012 7:00 pm
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No doubt the lines are blurring due to changes brought on with translational science and more complex clinical diagnostics. Traditionally, the LIS has been focused on more routine testing in hospitals and clinical labs with the idea of the patient being central. The LIMS can handle more complex testing and workflows, but has traditionally worked with the sample being the central theme. Each have their own unique regulatory requirements. Add the idea of managing a study and now you have yet another entity that is entirely different to manage. The future of clinical diagnostics requires all three.

In building our Clnical LIMS, we found how hard it is to design a system to satisfy all three requirements in one system. We did it, but it wasn't easy.
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Posted by Paul S. (Discussions: 0, Comments: 16)
Replied on March 13, 2012 8:00 pm
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John, though you are some what successful making every body in the thread, favor the term 'LIMS' over 'LIS', even with a significant difference in each product's associated functionality. I think it is a kind of imposing one's personal liking of the term 'LIMS' over the functionality differences between two different environments, required and defined by separate industry experts.
Respecting your personal preference, you have all the rights to call LIS, a LIMS or even some other thing you like (it is your own personal choice).
But through out my laboratory career of 28 years, I could not convince my self to call LIMS, a LIS or to LIS, a LIMS. (again it is my personal understanding).
Surely, I don't feel like having the authority to make those industry experts to agree to my personal liking of LIS, LIMS etc. If industry experts start calling your LIMS or my LIS, a GREY HOUND, I will start calling it GREY HOUND.
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Posted by Tariq C. (Discussions: 0, Comments: 1)
Replied on October 21, 2012 8:00 pm
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Tariq, those are sound points and besides, that is reality anyway. This discussion started as a result of wikipedia suggesting a discussion to merge the terms. This discussion has done a good job of debating the topic. If I had to cast a vote now, I would vote to keep them distinct because that is the way the majority of the market sees it.

I sell our LIMS into both the LIMS and LIS markets. I use the term most comfortable to the customer.
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Posted by John Jones (Discussions: 368, Comments: 3053)
Replied on October 21, 2012 8:00 pm
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Obviously, I have a bias towards LIMS because I only know about a specific LIMS and some of the systems that it replaced. If this group was called a LIS or GREY HOUND forum, I would not have joined it.

The LIMS I was involved with (since 1987) had very little to do with 'clinical' environments and was designed for and more suited to commercial analytical minerals laboratories or steel/aluminium production laboratories. This LIMS was job or lab-batch based for reporting, invoicing or quality control (QC) purposes. The jobs were used to group samples that needed pre-determined tests done, together with QC samples. The LIMS was designed to meet the laboratory auditing/accreditation body requirements for the industry (NATA in this part of the world).

It might take more time to get the LIMS to work for a different type of laboratory, but like many of the other systems, it has been tried or done before. I would not recommend it to the traditional LIS market though (out of the box), just as I would not recommend any LIS to minerals laboratories. Keeping both terms could avoid some confusion in the marketplace.

Any idea when or why we started calling the clinical/pathology systems LIS?
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Posted by Gelsomina P. (Discussions: 0, Comments: 7)
Replied on October 21, 2012 8:00 pm
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Truthfully I believe LIMS became more popular to say because LIS looks like it should be pronounced "Liz"... which would make LIMS seem feminine. LIMS is not necessarily masculine, but doesn't sound like a person's name - so it's got that going for it.
When I worked for STARLIMS I got tired of explaining what a LIMS was so I would just tell people we make prosthetic limbs that look like the limbs of celebrities, for example you could get a Brad Pitt leg etc. It got a better reaction compared to "lab management"
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Posted by Jason Pelish (Discussions: 2, Comments: 36)
Replied on October 21, 2012 8:00 pm
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Funny :) More likely that they dropped the M because people were getting it confused with limbs in that environment :P
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Posted by Gelsomina P. (Discussions: 0, Comments: 7)
Replied on October 22, 2012 8:00 pm
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Gelsomina, that is funny. This actually happened to me one time.

I was flying back to Atlanta from Los Angeles and I sat next to a lady who worked for NPR in Los Angeles. We got to talking and she asked what I did and I said that I was a LIMS vendor and I also operate a site called LIMSfinder.com. She looked at me very strangely and it finally became clear to both of us that we were both talking about 2 different things.

She thought I sold prosthetic limbs and had a site to help people find them. We laughed until we cried for about 15 minutes. It was the funniest thing happen to me in 10 years.
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Posted by John Jones (Discussions: 368, Comments: 3053)
Replied on October 22, 2012 8:00 pm
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I agree John, LIMS is a four letter word. Although needed as a tag for web searches, the market has evolved and is due for an innovative new label. Lab informatics needs have increased dramatically in the past decade and has driven the convergence of LIMS and LIS functionality especially in the area of health care informatics. From an end user perspective the requirements to comprehensively manage lab information (not just sample centric) AND the need to integrate and automate has never been greater. The platform that provides the most commonality with the lab business process and the most flexibility for workflow and systems integration is the direction we guide or clients.
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Posted by David Minicuci (Discussions: 0, Comments: 2)
Replied on October 22, 2012 8:00 pm
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It has been a while since anyone has posted to this discussion but I wanted to add something that I noted recently in interfacing instruments to LIS. Many clinical instrument manufacturers have a serial port on the back of the instrument that is physically labeled in paint as "LIS". You cannot get any more concrete than label painted on to the instrument noting the port to interface the "LIS" to. Note they said LIS not LIMS.

The point is that I clearly see that LIS and LIMS are two different systems but I still contend that LIS is a subset of functionality of an enterprise class LIMS. The big difference is that when you sell into the clinical market, you had best use LIS as opposed to using LIMS. LIS is a term that is well recognized in the healthcare industry.
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Posted by John Jones (Discussions: 368, Comments: 3053)
Replied on May 13, 2013 8:00 pm
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Very true John. I'm currently in the healthcare arena and most people here only know about LIS or clinical systems, even the clinical device manufacturers. It's a very different story in the laboratories for mining and metals - nothing but LIMS there.
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Posted by Gelsomina P. (Discussions: 0, Comments: 7)
Replied on May 19, 2013 8:00 pm
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