Earlier this week, I began a series of blog posts focused on the software selection process. Tuesday, I provided you with articles that would get those of you started who plan to do it themselves (http://outonalims.com/2011/09/06/laboratory-informatics-software-selections-day-1/). Yesterday, I discussed some of what HAS changed in our industry (http://outonalims.com/2011/09/07/laboratory-informatics-software-selections-day-2/). Today’s post is an overview of the increasingly meaningless terminology currently used in our industry.
Unfortunately for those of you starting your product selection process, our industry is still in-flux regarding the terms we use for our products and they will doubtfully be standardized any time, soon. Here are some examples of terms, some of which are more traditional definitions than what we use in real-life:
- LIMS – Laboratory Information Management System (basically, it manages samples and tests in the lab, but often includes stability management, water loop testing management, and other functions that relate to managing the process).
- LIS – Laboratory Information System (not the same as LIMS; LIS manages testing for the patient end of healthcare and clinical testing).
- ELN – Electronic Laboratory Notebook (traditionally, we think of it as something that takes the place of the paper laboratory notebook from the jottings one makes to managing the signatures; often includes a variety of extras, sometimes even the same features one might find in a LIMS; modern definitions have begun to stray from this definition).
- LES – Laboratory Execution System (makes sure that the users of the system execute their testing in a particular manner; these systems tend to be used by quality control or research development people and are sometimes just called an ELN).
So, this is just a small number of the terms used to refer to various systems in our industry. Some people refer to exactly the same software product by different terms (LIMS, ELN, LES) depending who they are selling it to. Within the categories, various products are meant for various industries. For example, you cannot merely go buy a LIMS, you would have to know what type you want. If you run an environmental laboratory, you would not want to consider LIMS that are focused on the drug metabolism area, for example.
Thus, as I mentioned in yesterday’s blog posting, it is more important to know your requirements than to get caught-up in product terminology.