What are the Differences Between LIS and LIMS?

If you’re searching for laboratory management software, then there’s a good chance that you’ve seen LIS and LIMS used interchangeably on different websites. Even though these systems overlap sometimes, they support different laboratory functionalities and types.

If you’re about to get a laboratory management system for your laboratory, you must get the distinct differences before choosing.

We understand that it can be easy to confuse the two. So, this article will highlight what they both are, their differences and any similarities. At the end of the article, you should be able to choose which is suitable for your lab.

Let’s start with defining them.

What is a LIS?

Laboratory Information System (LIS) is software that records, manages and stores patient testing data in a healthcare or hospital environment. Its functionality also includes collecting test orders, sending out orders to laboratory analysers, tracking orders and results and seamlessly transmitting results from a searchable database.

A LIS could sometimes include decision support rules that help workflow, data mining capabilities, point-of-care testing support, and outreach tools. With LIS, your laboratory can actively help determine a patient’s health status and development. 

The features you would typically find in a LIS system include:

  • A historical record of clinical treatment, diagnosis and patient outcomes
  • Patient demographic information includes all the relevant details like name, date of birth, blood type, and ethnicity. These are key data points that allow the laboratory to interpret test results and diagnose conditions accurately.
  • Ability to integrate with several other health-based informatics systems with protocols like HL7.
  • Easy tracking of all patient samples and associated test results
  • Seamless integration of high throughput clinical analysers

What is a LIMS System?

The original use for LIMS was for research, commercial and environmental analysis like testing for petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, cannabis, metals, quality assurance, manufacturing, food and beverage, etc. That has since changed, and today its functionality includes a range of other features like assay data management, sample management, data analysis, data mining and integration of electronic laboratory notebooks (ELNs).

In many standard LIMS workflows, all the customer data and samples will have barcodes, and you can access them in the laboratory. Proper tagging is necessary to track the chain of custody (COC), sample location, and other important sample information like freeze-thaw cycles in an instant. LIMS uses a cascade of analytical procedures and testing processes to track a large volume of specimens.

With a LIMS, users can perform calculations related to testing, manage test results, equipment utilised, inventory and quality control associated with the sample. Chain of Custody makes it possible to track many sample-handling steps as many organisations require it. You would have to make it an essential part of your structure for laboratories that handle any forensic or environmental testing.

Some of the features of a LIMS include:

  • Management of several product specifications for quality control
  • Batch tracking and management as well individual sample tracking
  • Easy integration with other business systems like Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems
  • Workflow management that ensures that you keep up with correct lab practices
  • Laboratory management functionality, including staff competency and instrument calibration

Similarities of LIS and LIMS

As technologies and needs continue to evolve, LISs include features that they did not have traditionally. Over time this has led to some overlap in functionality as both systems can perform a slew of functions that make them very similar.

Some of these similarities include:

  • Real-time data accessibility
  • Case Management
  • Centralised workflows
  • Software integration and analyser
  • IoT Integration
  • Specimen and Sample Tracking
  • Quality Control and Analysis Functionality
  • Audit Trail or Chain of custody records

Both LIS and LIMS can integrate with lab analysers and other third-party software, including systems you use in the lab, insurance companies, state regulatory bodies and provider’s offices. As the functionality of advanced lab software expands, LIMS and LIS platforms will soon converge, and you will find more similarities.

Differences between LIS and LIMS

As with many new technologies, they are all dependent on the purpose and what you intend to use them for. LIMS and LIS differ in their purpose, and we’ll explain the differences in-depth below.

LIS is a patient-centric system designed initially to help pathology labs track and process specimens for diagnosing individual samples. Suppose it is a clinical, bio lab, LC/MS or clinical lab. In that case, LIS is HIPAA compliant and typically supports individual specimens and maintains lab data at each step of diagnosis to deliver comprehensive reports back to a patient or medical facility.

LIS focuses on test results and patient information, and LIMS focuses on test samples. In laboratories, LIS are patient-centric and helps store test results, demographic data, and clinical histories. This integrates directly with electronic health records (EHR), giving practitioners and doctors quick access to the test results. So, LIS is developed mainly for pathology labs.

LIMS, on the other hand, suits commercial labs better, primarily when the labs test food, beverages, pharmaceuticals and food with massive batch testing. While LIS is HIPAA compliant, LIMS must pass the ISO 17025 standards. This is an international set of standards that define the requirements for impartial, competent and consistent laboratory operations.

We can summarise the differences in the table below.

Traditional UseIdeal for patient-based operations. Great for processing and reporting data for individual patients in clinical settings.Report data related to batches or samples. Uses sample-based processes for research and development
Competitive NichePatient-centric settings (specimens and subjects) in clinical labsSuitable for group-centric settings (batches and samples). Most ideal for anonymous research-specific laboratory data
Regulatory and Accreditation BodiesHIPAACOLA, CAPThe Joint Commission, CLIAISO 17025FDA Title 21 CFR Part 11GLP
Laboratory TypesHospitals, Reference labs, Clinical labs, Anatomic pathology, Physician office labs, Toxicology and pain clinics, etc.Commercial, research or environmental analysis like metals, manufacturing, water treatment facilities, etc.


Now that you know the difference between LIS and LIMS, you need to decide which can cater to your clinic, hospital, or lab needs. If you are planning an individual clinic or patient lab, we would recommend a single test or record-based setup like a LIS. However, if you’re planning a prominent research facility capable of running larger data batches than a single output, a LIMS is the way to go.