For about the last four decades, the term laboratory information system (LIS) has been used to describe computer systems installed in hospital pathology departments. By way of comparison, the term laboratory information management system (LIMS) was used to refer to systems installed in research laboratories and in industrial labs such as those associated with food processing. About five years ago, I began to hear pathology informaticians with a molecular and genomic lab background refer to the hospital lab systems as LIMSs. This made some sense to me given their connections in research. It's now commonplace in articles to see references to hospital lab systems as LIMSs (see: Next-Generation Laboratory Information Management Systems Will Deliver Medical Laboratory Test Results and Patient Data to Point of Care...). Even Sunquest, a best-of-breed LIS vendor, refers to its recently released genetic analysis and molecular system, Mitogen, as a LIMS.
So what's going on? First of all, Sunquest is marketing Mitogen to the molecular and genetic pathologists who favor the term LIMS, as noted above. Secondly, Sunquest is also marketing it to molecular/genetic reference labs whose executives, I suspect, favor the LIMS term. However, I think that something much more important is happening in the LIS/LIMS market which involves Epic and its LIS called Beaker. Beaker is achieving some success in the LIS market because Epic has gained a high measure of acceptance for its EHR in hospital C-suites, particularly in larger hospitals. Moreover, hospital executives such as CIOs are looking to Epic to provide an enterprise-wide IT solution and are thus pressuring their pathology leaders to select Beaker as their favored LIS. Epic has also gradually increased the functionality of Beaker and getting fewer no votes from pathologists as their preferred LIS.
In response to this competition from Epic/Beaker, I think that the major LIS vendors lilke Sunquest are developing highly complex modular/genomic products like Mitogen. Such systems are so complex that Epic can't or won't effectively compete with them in the short-run. Perhaps to draw attention to the difference between its products like Mitogen and Beaker, Sunquest may have decided to call it a LIMS. It may then come to pass that the term LIS, as applied to Beaker, will come to be understood as a generic product that handles basic lab tasks such as order-entry and results reporting. Pathologists may then favor the more functional and specialized LIMSs for molecular/genetic support or support for other complex labs.