Laboratory Information System (LIS): Definition & Functions

Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition, Anatomy, Physiology, and Sports Nutrition courses and has a master's degree in Dietetics & Nutrition.

A laboratory information system is a very valuable part of a medical laboratory. Learn more about laboratory information systems, including their function in the recording, storage, and management of data in a medical laboratory.

Blood Test

Larry is a 66-year old who just went to his doctor for his yearly physical. After reviewing Larry's results, the doctor recommended that Larry go to a nearby medical laboratory to get his blood levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, and electrolytes checked.

A week later Larry went to the medical laboratory where a nurse drew a sample of his blood. The nurse then told Larry that it would take a couple days to examine his blood and determine his cholesterol, triglyceride, and electrolyte levels. Sure enough, a couple days later, Larry's doctor called to let him know that the medical laboratory had sent him Larry's lab results.

The ability of the medical laboratory to keep track of Larry's information, blood sample, and test results and send these test results on time to his doctor is possible in large part due to a laboratory information system.

A laboratory information system can help manage data and information of a medical lab.

Laboratory Information System

A medical laboratory is a laboratory where specimen samples are stored, examined, and processed. For example, a person can go to a medical laboratory to get a sample of blood taken from their arm. The laboratory can then examine and test this sample of blood to possibly diagnose a disease. Medical labs are often found in hospitals, large doctor's offices, and community health clinics.

A laboratory information system (LIS) is a computer system that helps to manage many aspects of a medical laboratory, including inputting, processing, and storing the information and data of a lab. For example, when Larry went to the medical laboratory to get his blood drawn and analyzed, the LIS helped to manage all the information that related to his visit. This information included:

  • The date of his visit
  • His primary care physician
  • Pertinent patient information and demographics
  • The type of sample that was drawn
  • Physician test orders
  • Who got billed for his visit
  • When the test results were sent to his physician

A busy medical lab may have hundreds of patients each week. It can be very difficult to keep all this information organized, but an LIS does just that. An LIS helps to keep all this information organized, which is vitally important for a medical lab to run smoothly.

Practical Applications of LIS

There are many practice applications of an LIS that help to improve the day-to-day operations of a medical laboratory, as well as help to prevent medical errors. For example, most blood tests performed in a medical lab require a doctor's order. On this order, a doctor will select a specific code that indicates which specific test he wants the lab to perform on his patient. The LIS can then cross-reference these lab orders to make sure that the correct test is being performed on the patient.

An LIS can help prevent medical errors when drawing and examining blood.
blood draw

Now lets pretend that Larry and his doctor 'misplace' his test results. No problem! The LIS of the medical laboratory has all this information stored in its database so Larry or his doctor can simply call and ask for this information to be retrieved.

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