A project launched by the Association for Pathology Informatics (API) called the LIS Functionality Assessment Toolkit (LIS-FAT) seems to be acquiring some momentum. I discussed the project in a previous note (see: Assessing the Functionality of a Laboratory Information System (LIS)). Officially announced at the ASCP annual conference in Chicago on September 20, 2013, LIS-FAT consists of four documents that are available for free download at the API web site. First is a white paper discussing the need to optimize the functionality of LISs in pathology departments, The white paper is accompanied by three appendices. The first of these, Appendix I, is the most important document in the set. It's a compilation of about 850 functionality statements, declarative statements about the various tasks that can and should be accomplished by an LIS. Each of them is assigned a score of 1-4 with the 3's and 4's being the most critical. They have been designed to be used to evaluate a pathology department's current LIS or one under consideration for purchase. Appendix I has been downloaded approximately 3,000 times since it was made available on the web site, indicating that is is proving to be a useful tool.
When the API task force initially developed the LIS-FAT, the major stated goal of the task force was to develop a set of tools that could be used to assess an LIS and, most particularly, help manage the RFP process when buying a new system. Such functionality statements have been included for decades in RFP's developed by individual labs and sent to LIS vendors. One of the goals of the LIS-FAT task force was to make available at no cost a comprehensive list of such statements so that individuals labs could avoid the effort of generating their own similar documents.
Actual events have taken a slightly different turn. Some LIS vendors have now developed their individual responses to the functionality statements and are making then available to current and prospective clients who inquire about how their product compare on this basis. I was told during informal hallway conversations at the recent Pathology Informatics Summit 2014, the major yearly conference of the API, that many of the LIS vendors welcomed the publication of LIS-FAT and are viewing it as a kind of functionality "standard" in the market. I place functionality in quotes here because LIS-FAT, in its current form, lacks the formality and precision of an IT standard.
The members of the LIS-FAT task force are now considering some possible options in terms of future development of the LIS-FAT. One goal will definitely be to expand the current functionality statements in areas such as genomic testing and lab outreach. Another possible goal will be to consider using the API web site as a central repository for "certified" copies of vendor responses to the functionality statements if the LIS vendors agree that this would be a step forward. The goal here would be for them to "stand behind" the posted responses, guaranteeing them for interested potential buyers. If readers of this blog have other ideas about the future of LIS-FAT, their comments would be most welcome.