How to Choose the Right Laboratory Information System (LIS) for Your Needs

An LIS is your lab OS. You need to know exactly what to look for when choosing your next LIS.
The Lab Intelligence System is the OS of your laboratory

Choosing the right Laboratory Information System (LIS) that will answer all your needs is not an easy thing to do. There are many points to remember – some of them you don’t even know that you need.

In this article, we will try to help you make the best decision for your organization. We will even give you a checklist to download for your reference when choosing the right LIS. 

What is an LIS?

Before we dive into the details of how to choose the best LIS for you, let’s review what is an LIS.
A laboratory information system (LIS) is computer software that processes, stores, and manages data from patient medical processes and tests.[1] In simple terms, an LIS is the heart and soul of any lab and it’s a vital solution that helps lab professionals with their daily tasks. For example, a clinical laboratory tests biological specimens to diagnose and monitor health conditions and make treatment decisions. In order to simplify the work, it must use the right laboratory information system to carry out these tasks. This system will specifically cater to the lab’s needs while ensuring quality controls and automating workflows.

An LIS, unlike LIMS, is designed specifically for clinical and anatomic pathology laboratories while LIMS is a broader software platform used in various industries, including healthcare, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and environmental testing. You can read more about LIS vs. LIMS here.

The workflow and structure of a clinical laboratory involve a massive amount of data. Therefore, accuracy and efficiency in managing patients’ information are essential. The right laboratory information system would streamline the workflow, efficiently manage patient data, and ensure quality control. However, choosing the right laboratory information system for your needs is no easy task and demands a clear understanding of the lab’s needs, current and future.

This article will explain the importance of choosing the right laboratory information system, critical considerations in choosing the right laboratory information system for your needs, potential challenges, and how to navigate them.

The Importance of Choosing the Right Laboratory Information System

A standard laboratory information system should efficiently manage data, workflow, quality control, test ordering, and tracking. However, choosing the right laboratory information system depends on the system’s ability to carry out tasks tailored to your needs. Making the right choice is crucial for various reasons, including:

  • LIS systems are designed to ensure your laboratory complies with specific regulatory guidelines such as data integrity principles.[2]
  • An LIS ensures data integrity during the testing process of patients by maintaining accurate record-keeping.
  • The LIS needs to conduct automated tasks, reducing time spent on each test.
  • The right laboratory information system can leverage the data collected, conduct data analysis, adapt to the laboratory’s needs, and project the laboratory’s trajectory.

Critical Considerations Before Choosing the Right Laboratory Information System for Your Needs

The features of a laboratory information system, or lack of them, will determine its strength and competitive advantage over others. The following factors should be considered in choosing the right laboratory information system for your needs:

  • Needs Assessment: First, identify the specific needs of the laboratory. Determining your unique needs and expectations would depend on the laboratory’s size, scope, and specialty. Gather information from relevant laboratory stakeholders to provide a holistic structure for your potential laboratory information system. The information gathered would serve as a compass to map out your current workflow, including the volume and complex nature of tests conducted at the laboratory. For example, a lab that runs 200 tests a day will not need an LIS that is built for tens of thousands of daily tests. In addition, consider the compatibility of the laboratory information system with other existing programs and the laboratory’s long-term and short-term goals.
  • Functionality: The essence of a laboratory information system (LIS) is its ability to function effectively and assist you in your day-to-day tasks while performing all relevant tasks. The right LIS for you should be capable of performing core functional tasks and specialized tasks and must pass the suitability test. The features of the LIS should enable it to manage samples, track tests, report results, and analyze data. Additionally, it should meet the specific needs of your laboratory and seamlessly integrate with other systems in use.
  • Adaptability for Growth: Laboratories evolve according to their long-term and short-term goals. The right laboratory information system for your needs should be able to adapt to the evolving nature of your laboratory. A laboratory information system without the ability to adapt will eventually make your lab obsolete. When choosing your LIS, ensure it fulfills your current needs and can accommodate your future needs. Features like modular designs and customizable workflows indicate the flexibility of the laboratory information system. It should also be able to grow with you – as the number of daily tests grows, so grows the ability of your LIS to perform more tests without creating any bottlenecks.
  • Technology Excellence: As we mentioned before, the LIS is the heart and soul of the lab, it’s OS if you will. As such, you need to make sure that you choose the best solution out there that is technologically advanced. A technologically advanced LIS ensures higher efficiency, accuracy, and reliability in your laboratory operations. It allows for better automation of routine tasks, reducing the risk of human error and increasing throughput. It can also offer robust data management capabilities, seamless integration with other healthcare systems, and enhanced data security. Furthermore, it can adapt to emerging trends and regulatory requirements, ensuring that the laboratory remains future-ready. This technological superiority ultimately leads to a truly digital laboratory.

Challenges Faced by Laboratories in Choosing the Right LIS for Your Needs and Solutions

Understanding how to choose the right Laboratory Information System (LIS) is a critical decision for laboratories, but it comes with a variety of challenges. Here are some topics you need to consider before upgrading or moving to a new LIS.

  1. Combability – When choosing the right LIS you need to ensure compatibility with your existing systems and workflows. Most laboratories often work with a mix of legacy systems and specialized equipment, making it hard to integrate a new LIS.
  2. Customization – No two laboratories are identical, and an LIS must be flexible enough to accommodate unique operational needs without requiring extensive modifications. It also needs to work as you want it to work. Make sure the LIS can be tailored to your needs.
  3. Data security and Compliance – One of the most crucial aspects when choosing an LIS. Security and Compliance pose significant concerns, as laboratories handle sensitive patient information that must be protected following stringent regulations like HIPAA and GDPR.
  4. Scalability – Laboratories must select an LIS that can grow with their needs, whether that means handling an increased volume of tests or expanding to multiple locations.
  5. Price – Cost is another major factor, as the total cost of ownership includes not just the initial purchase but also implementation, training, maintenance, and potential future upgrades. While the price of LIS solutions varies, in most cases the more tests and sites you have, the pricier your LIS will be.
  6. User Adoption – The system must be intuitive and user-friendly to ensure smooth adoption by all staff members. To address these challenges, laboratories should conduct a thorough needs assessment and engage stakeholders from various departments in the decision-making process. Seeking out LIS vendors with a strong track record in the industry and robust customer support can also mitigate risks. Investing in comprehensive training programs for staff and establishing clear protocols for data security and compliance can further ease the transition.
  7. Mobile Support – Today, with the need for immediate results, it’s important that the LIS solution will offer mobile application support. Getting the results no matter where you are is not a nice-to-have feature but a must. 
These are the key issues to consider when choosing a new LIS solution, but every lab has its priorities. Some things that are important to one lab are less important to the other. 

The Bottom Line

Knowing how to choose the right laboratory information system and making the right purchase is an investment in the future of your laboratory. Your LIS plays a crucial role in the successful operation of your laboratory. When making your choice, you must identify your needs, prioritize functionality, consider its suitability for your future goals, and conduct a market survey.

Choosing the right laboratory information system will help optimize your laboratory performance. You need to remember, when choosing an LIS you need to make sure that it not only answers your current needs but also will be able to answer any future needs such as lab expansion or new regulations. You don’t want to go LIS shopping every few years, do you?

[1] What is a laboratory information system (LIS)? | Definition from TechTarget

[2] Resources for LIS program administrators | ALA