Jun 6, 2024 5:07:28 PM | Blog LIMS vs LIS Solutions

The landscape of laboratory informatics software is a mixture of solutions designed to manage activities and data for different functional areas and types of labs. Perhaps the most common source of confusion is the difference between a LIMS and a LIS. In this article we aim to clarify these differences and provide guidance for choosing the most appropriate system for your needs. 

To start, let’s outline what each system does with context about the type of laboratory setting they were developed for.

What’s a LIMS?

When sample volumes increase and tests become more structured, laboratories can no longer rely on heavily manual processes as they are inefficient and are prone to human error. At this point, they require a LIMS, or a Laboratory Information Management System. This type of technology was designed to manage laboratory testing at scale, tracking everything that happens as samples are processed, maintaining productivity, and guarding against errors with automation.

What’s a LIS?

LISs, or Laboratory Information Systems were developed for clinical laboratory settings to handle the intake of samples from patients for standard tests. While LIMS are sample-centric and focus on managing the actual tests, LISs are patient-centric and their primary functions are to interface with the Electronic Health Record (EHR) system, receive orders, create patient records, request the test, and return the diagnostic report to whoever ordered it. They often integrate with LIMS to send the request to the lab and retrieve the results.

LIMS-LIS Integration

We should mention that some labs do, in fact, have both LIMS and LIS software and have integrated them to exchange data, automate workflows, and unify reporting. Integration is typically achieved through APIs, middleware, and/or direct database access and involves addressing challenges like different data models, technical complexity, and ongoing maintenance and change management.

LIMS vs LIS: Which do you need?

The question is, if you want to avoid having to purchase both, and deal with the challenges of integrating them, which do you select for your lab? And while the answer may seem obvious based on the information provided above, it’s actually complicated due to the fact that around 2017 vendors determined that the industry could be better served with a single solution that could cover both LIMS and LIS use cases. As a result, several things began happening:

  • Mergers and acquisitions between LIMS and LIS vendors
  • Point solutions began developing functionality for adjacent laboratory informatics use cases
  • The reimagining of the way laboratory informatics systems are designed so they can easily meet both sets of needs

Many have and will continue to pursue M&As, as they attempt to quickly add rich functionality to a product offering. Customers benefit from more comprehensive capabilities from a single vendor but may have to deal with separate products that aren’t yet fully integrated. 

In cases where a company decides to build functionality into its point solution, they’re often years, even decades behind leaders in the space and the functionality is quite limited in comparison. 

Some, like Semaphore, creators of Labbit, took a different approach. After over a decade of implementing and maintaining LIMS and LISs for laboratories, often having to force one to behave as the other through intense custom coding, they understood that the main reason many systems struggle to be both is their underlying infrastructure that is either strictly sample-centric or patient-centric. 

Labbit reimagines laboratory informatics by using knowledge graph database technology. The graph database allows Labbit to be configured to track multiple different entities, like samples and patients, and capture complex relationships between them to serve as both a LIMS and an LIS. Furthermore, because objects and their relationships can be continuously added and changed in graph databases, it’s a much simpler, faster process adapting these systems as the laboratory’s needs change. 

In conclusion, if you’re trying to decide whether to invest in a LIMS, an LIS, or both, consider a system that can truly deliver functionality, adaptability, and flexibility without heavy amounts of custom coding. 


Written By: Labbit