Are LIMS and LIS systems the same thing?

Updated: Jan 13


So many lab informatics tools, so few acronyms…

Testing laboratories, regardless of industry, produce mountains of complex data on the daily. And, anyone with mountains of anything knows that you need to get a good system in place so you don’t fall down. Luckily, there are some pretty sweet lab informatics tools you can implement to help. But, do you need LIMS software? Or LIS? Or… are they the same thing?


If you’re new to laboratory data management, the most obvious difference between a LIMS and a LIS system is, well, the letter “M.” As in, laboratory information management system (LIMS) versus laboratory information system (LIS). Where it gets sticky is that both tools manage lab data. They also both help ensure data integrity, compliance and security.


Actually, LIMS and LIS have a lot in common.

Like many software solutions, these laboratory informatics tools can show a wide variance in functionality from the lowest-end solution to the highest. However, most newer LIMS and LIS systems share a lot of commonalities, such as:

  • Centralized workflows

  • Sample tracking

  • Chain of custody records

  • Analysis/diagnostic functionality

  • Real-time data accessibility

  • IoT integration

You may have heard that LIS systems are more affordable and easier to implement – both of which can quite be true. So, if these two types of software are so similar, and one’s cheaper and easier to adopt, why choose a LIMS over a LIS?


It’s all about purpose.

As with any new technology adoption, it all comes down to purpose. Some quick questions to consider are:

  • What type of data do you process?

  • Who needs to see and understand it?

  • What is this audience going to do with the data?

LIS systems are designed primarily to process data in clinical, hospital and other medical settings. As such, this software is patient-centric and made for securely managing health information for an individual. LIS systems keep track of data regarding the patient’s age, ethnicity, blood type, test results, past outcomes, etc., and only that patient’s healthcare providers (and sometimes the patient him- or herself) need to view the data. So, smaller amounts of highly secure, HIPAA-compliant data gathered to help make health decisions for a single patient.


LIMS systems, on the other hand, are ideal for commercial settings such as fluid and lubrication labs, food and beverage testing facilities, pharmaceutical labs, and others. Unlike the patient-centric LIS, a LIMS analyzes and reports large batches of data, offering insights to a variety of stakeholders. The software offers things like workflow optimization, automated reporting and quality assurance and can be customized to assist with additional business goals. So, we’re talking large data sets in commercial settings, often with ISO 17025 compliance standards in place. LIMS data is used to help companies make decisions regarding maintenance, operations, product development and much more.


Of course, these definitions are loose and some people do use the terms LIMS and LIS interchangeably. If you’re on the hunt for a data management fix for your lab, these distinctions are a helpful start. It always helps to talk through technology questions, though, so feel free to connect with us if you have specific use cases in mind. We’re happy to help!

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