Best Laboratory Information Systems: A Buyer's Guide
Purchasing a new laboratory information system (LIS) can be a stressful task for the entire lab, from the IT department to the medical director down to the lab techs. Many variables need to be considered before purchasing and rolling out a new laboratory information system, including but not limited to supportive access, ease of use, the value of implementation, and the perceived value of the change. In addition, before purchasing any LIS, each team member must consider the benefits of replacing or rolling out a new LIS versus staying on the current course.
Unlike strictly technical purchases, the LIS software will affect nearly every daily task of a lab and therefore needs to be carefully evaluated using a variety of metrics that far exceed simple technical integrations. With that in mind, this buyer’s guide breaks down the key considerations that any diagnostic lab should carefully weigh when purchasing a new laboratory information system.
What are the Objectives of a LIS?
To start, your IT team needs to look at the essential functions of a laboratory information system and how those features will be used at each stage of the workflow/s. At its core, the objective of any properly implemented LIS is to record, update, manage, store and report diagnostic results in the fastest time possible. However, within this broad definition are hundreds of micro-tasks that all need to be easily accessed and accurately executed for these larger objectives to be met. Main tasks include:
- Receiving and organizing orders
- Breaking down specimens to be analyzed
- Tracking and reporting results
- Quality control
- Seamless interoperability to every instrument, client, and patient
For laboratories, relevant demographics and clinical details must be correctly recorded and managed for future analysis. Therefore, the chosen LIS software must be able to accommodate and manage all the tasks above.
The Cost of a LIS System
Cost is always a factor that you need to consider before acquiring a LIS system. While there is the upfront cost of purchasing a LIS system, you must also consider other backend costs. These include the labor costs of installing the software and continuing to support the LIS once its installation is complete. In addition, every software company will require some kind of licensing and annual subscription fees for the facility to continue accessing end-user support from the company administrators. Therefore, labs must carefully contemplate the costs of choosing a new LIS provider before switching or subscribing to a new laboratory information system software.
Suppose the LIS does not adequately integrate into other software heavily utilized within the company. In that case, its adoption might incur additional associated costs as other programs or data acquisition programs may need to be adopted or purchased.
Who Will Need Access to the LIS?
Medical data is highly protected by federal laws and regulated carefully. Therefore, overall accessibility and varied accessibility levels are essential regarding the LIS software a lab or hospital chooses to purchase. Note: In order to remain in compliance with privacy laws the LIS system will need to allow for different levels of permissible access.
Is the LIS Cloud-Based?
Traditional on-premises LIS software is a thing of the past. Not only due to the overall cost of maintaining the system but due to the lack of LIS vendors even making it an option anymore. So the question then turns into, is it a cloud-hosted LIS or a SaaS LIS?
As cloud and SaaS models are not uncommon software delivery models, the majority of pathology laboratory professionals are unaware of the actual differences between a cloud-hosted LIS versus a SaaS LIS. These differences are broken down in a white paper “New Drivers Pushing Beyond Cloud to SaaS Laboratory Information Systems.“
How Does a LIS System Work with Other Software?
A laboratory information system is only as good as its compatibility with existing software and systems within the lab. Modern medicine comprises sophisticated digital tools and tech, each of which needs to be able to “talk” and interact with the LIS. Therefore, interoperability for your next LIS system is a vital component that you must consider.
In addition, how is the transmission of data being watched? Does it have alerts that can flag you when something is stuck in the pipeline?
How Easy is it to Implement?
The implementation stage is one of the most important considerations before adopting a new LIS. As with any new LIS, the implementation process will never be a simple plug-and-play scenario – even though we all wish it could be.
But what to note about any implementation is how it’s done and the timeline it can be done in. Great LIS vendors will be onsite with boots on the ground in the lab when implementing. This provides hands-on support and assurance through a bumpy process.
What End-User Support is Available?
Finally, experienced lab managers know that no LIS software rollout will be perfect. While the attempt to catch and manage expected difficulties is why you partner with an experienced LIS provider, the complexity of a lab’s workflow means there will be technical issues at some point, both during and after the rollout completion.
This makes proper end-user support vital; 24/7 end-user support is essential for any LIS software where time is critical. Lab managers need to carefully evaluate the kind of support they’d receive.
Do they offer phone, web chat support, and after-hours support? Is the support team US based? These are all great questions to ask any LIS vendor.
Start with a Comprehensive Understanding of Your Needs
Before reaching out to any LIS software vendor, the first step in replacing your LIS is understanding your needs. What capabilities will you need to support your lab? What don’t you need?
Once you understand your needs, create your budget and timeline for when your lab needs to be live with a new LIS software.
To help in your process of evaluating different LIS software vendors, download our LIS scorecard where you can easily compare capabilities side by side.