Lab Software vs. Lab Information System vs. LIMS

The Wikipedia’s definition of Lab Information System, does provide all relevant information but scattered through out the article with the most of the lab software’s characteristics listed describing the lab information system, thus leading to a confusion. Without negating the Wikipedia’s information, I am going to redefine all three of the lab software, the lab information system and the LIMS. My analysis is based on and backed by hundreds of targeted searches, the trend of marketers and lab system manufacturers, an observation of the practical use of lab systems in the industry and my personal experience. 

Lab Software is the computer program designed to carry out all or majority of core processes of a medical laboratory. The core laboratory processes involve all stages of the specimen analysis work flow, starting from the specimen draw, specimen transportation, accession, communicating test orders to analyzers and results back from analyzers, results review and release, reporting, billing and the payment processing. A standard quality control defined by the Regulatory Agency must be the part of the workflow.  An ideal lab software should perform all core processes plus more. More the better. Any software capable of one or two functions, can not be referred as the lab software. Rather it should be called as a helper tool. For example a fax software or a GFR calculator, being used in the lab, can not be referred as the lab software.

Lab Information System, on the other hand, is a collection of computer programs like lab software and helper tools including but not limited to lab automation software tools. Bigger the collection, better Lab Information System. I will use the same example listed above to elaborate the difference between using a helper tool with the lab software and it being a part of the lab information system. A fax software or GFR calculator when used along with the lab software without any integration, requires more effort and resources versus when it is used along with the lab software with an integration in place.  The later representing a move towards lab automation, so is the lab information system.  

Now the LIMS which stands for Laboratory Information Management System, functionally similar to a lab information system (LIS) with a major difference of its application for non clinical use. Candidates of a LIMS include forensic labs, pharmaceutical R&D labs, environmental, food and general analytical labs or any FDA regulated facility. Based on the candidate’s specific requirements, a LIMS usually employs the Chain of Custody (COC) functionality,  21CFR part 11 compliance, tracking of samples and the same for lab reagents by their lots and the expiration dates, additionally.

The analysis represents general information excluding individual customizations.