• LIMS vs LIS - What's the Difference?


LIMS vs LIS - What's the Difference?

Nov 19 2022

The scientific world is full of acronyms and at times they can be a little confusing. Mixing up laboratory information management systems (LIMS) and laboratory information systems (LIS) is one of the most common faux pas. The pair sound similar but there are some key differences to consider. We take a closer look below:

The core goals of LIMS and LIS

Traditionally, the core goal of a LIMS is to process, track and report data. The software is used across a wide range of laboratories, including clinical analysis facilities, drug development centres and municipal wastewater plants. Any facility that handles complex data can benefit from a LIMS.

In comparison, LIS is designed to process, track and report clinical data belonging to individual patients. LIS is widely used in patient-centric settings, including clinical analysis labs, hospitals and GP clinics.

Meeting regulatory standards

A key role of LIMS is to help labs meet the strict rules set by regulatory bodies. This includes Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), a system designed to maintain the consistency and quality of products.

LIS also helps labs meet rules and regulations, however these are usually specific to medical practitioners and health service agencies such as the NHS.

Batch vs individual data

LIMS software is designed to process high volumes of laboratory data. For example, LIMS designed for environmental labs is equipped with the capacity to process and track hundreds of soil samples. LIS is designed with individual patients in mind. It’s better suited to processing specimens belonging to a single subject.


While LIMS software is often customised to suit the needs of end users, LIS is heavily regulated. In the USA, the FDA classes laboratory information systems as medical devices and holds software companies accountable for defects. For this reason, LIS is rarely customised.

Overlaps between LIMS and LIS

While there is overlap between the two platforms, it’s important for laboratory managers to understand the differences. This is the best way to find the right fit and harness the benefits of LIMS and LIS.

Royce Zeiler, a LIMS expert explains, “An LIS is more often found in what we refer to as a 'clinical' setting, whereas a LIMS has been for, say, research and development, forensic testing, and cannabis testing. However, the distinctions between the two have blurred over time, and there is a lot more overlap in the industry today.”

Technological advances are continually reimagining the limits of LIMS. Find out more about the latest developments, including the incorporation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities, in ‘What is a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS)?’

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