A laboratory information system (LIS) is computer software that processes, stores and manages data from all stages of medical processes and tests.
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Physicians and lab technicians use laboratory information systems to coordinate varieties of inpatient and outpatient medical testing, including hematology, chemistry, immunology and microbiology. Basic laboratory information systems commonly have features that manage patient check in, order entry, specimen processing, result entry and patient demographics. An LIS tracks and stores clinical details about a patient during a lab visit and keeps the information stored in its database for future reference.
A closely related technology to LIS is a laboratory information management system (LIMS), but there are differences between the two software types. An LIS is a healthcare system that holds clinical data. By comparison, an LIMS can be deployed in healthcare, too, but it is also used in non-medical settings, including in environmental testing laboratories, pharmaceutical laboratories and water treatment plants. An LIMS can be used as a Web tool or installed on a personal computer or device and stores and manages captured data, as well as producing reports from that data.
The electronic data capture process of an LIMS or LIS can reduce time spent and cut errors associated with the transcribing process.
Maintenance of laboratory information systems took on added importance with the introduction of the meaningful use program. The program is overseen by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and consists of sets of criteria split into stage 1, stage 2 and stage 3. Participating healthcare providers that successfully prove their electronic health record (EHR) systems or EHR modules -- such as an LIS -- satisfy program criteria are eligible for incentive payments. If an LIS is tested and certified to meet meaningful use criteria or other health IT certification standards, it is defined as an EHR module.
Some meaningful use reporting measures that could involve an LIS include the electronic submission of lab test results to public health agencies and the incorporation of clinical lab test results into a certified EHR system.