Business Analytics – Why does your LIMS/ LIS need it?

Publication Date: 21/06/2024

Cranfield, UK, 20th June 2024, Co-authored by Imogen Fitt and Alexandra Bream – 

Laboratory information management systems (LIMS) and Laboratory information systems (LIS) are software solutions designed to manage sample and patient data respectively.

Since the first commercial products were released, both types of software have continuously expanded scope and functionalities included as ‘standard’ through the addition of new modules. One of these,  business intelligence (BI) software, is designed to generate analytics encompassing wider laboratory operations. Examples of key applications include providing an overview of backlogs, retesting volumes, turnaround times, stock numbers and compliance statuses.

Demand for BI is being driven by increasing market pressures such as rising sample volumes, focus on faster turnarounds, an increase in the types of analyses required in addition to frequently fluctuating regulation, which is putting further strain on laboratory efficiencies and ultimately profitability.

Providing BI within the LIMS/LIS can therefore provide real value to customers, offering real-time feedback on the aforementioned metrics and allowing laboratory management to more effectively keep track of organisational key performance indicators (KPIs).

LIMS/LIS software can provide BI in a number of ways: through integration with open-source software; in house development; or third party integration. This insight will explore the advantages and disadvantages related to each approach.

Why Offer Business Intelligence At All?

Many of today’s LIMS/LIS vendors already have optional business analytics modules, with the benefits of provision being very clear:

  • Upselling opportunities: having a BI module, whether an external integration or an in-house solution, means vendors can offer bundles and increase the ‘stickiness’ of associated products. Both also allow an increase in revenues per client through API fees and modular income respectively.
  • Increasing customer productivity: as labs face increasing economic headwinds, there is danger than funds for laboratory IT investment will decline as institutions look to cut costs. Providing access to BI software will support laboratory economics and help maintain profitable customers, which in turn benefits the vendors targeting those markets.
  • Promoting user retention: as more and more LIMS/LIS vendors provide business intelligence software, provision will soon become an expectation from customers. This will help both drive competitive innovation and promote user retention amongst those vendors investing in quality solutions.

How Best to Provide Access?

There are various ways for LIMS/LIS vendors to provide access to BI, with distinct advantages and disadvantages for each approach:

1. External Integrations – Open Source

Best For: Smaller vendors hoping to scale quickly with smaller customers

Advantages: Open-source BI software provides laboratory customers access at little to no cost and because such projects rely on community contributions, consequent updates also come free. For smaller customers with smaller budgets this kind of integration can provide a quick, low-cost entry to realising the value in BI software. For vendors, it also provides relatively easy open-source code with which to incorporate into software.

Disadvantages: At the same time, because open-source software can rely on amateur developers, quality related to functionalities is often lower than paid-for products, and the ability to customise software is limited without in-house expertise. Software that is open source also often leaves customers vulnerable to cyber-attacks and without warranties and customers can be left burned – and associating their LIS vendor with the experience.

2. External Integrations – General or Specialist

Best For: Smaller vendors hoping to scale quickly

Advantages: Instead of spending a large sum of resources developing sophisticated software in-house, smaller vendors such as QBench and Wavefront Software, have integrations with Microsoft’s PowerBI. This offers vendors a lower-cost but also safer option in providing BI and allows smaller vendors to compete with larger vendors who have developed in-house software. For vendors which possess large or growing capital stores, this may also allow them the opportunity to ‘test’ potential acquisition candidates at a few customer sites. Acquiring software often provides a quicker solution to in-house development and can be especially favourable when the respective vendors have complementary customer bases (possibly facilitating new entry into a previously untapped segment).

Disadvantages: However, integrating with a 3rd party software generates minimal revenue for the associated vendor, and in addition allows a business to offer minimal flexibility. This may mean vendors cannot assist customers with specific software issues or be as adaptable to customer needs. Vendors may also be tied to partner success in any given scenario.

3. Integrated Inhouse Modules

Best For: Larger vendors with established customer bases

Advantages: This method provides the most control for vendors, and also the highest return-on-investment if executed properly. By customising in-house developed software vendors can ensure that their provision will be able to satisfy key customer requirements.

Disadvantages: As mentioned previously, this method entails the largest cost in terms of both resource and time, and can mean that some vendors will be later to market with an adequate solution. Additionally, many vendors are phasing out obsolete software platforms, meaning that any additional investment would be best placed in new product lines which will last longer. Investment in older software therefore will also be reduced depending on how quickly individual customer sites transition to the updated portfolio.

Incorporating AI – But How?

Vendors such as Thermo Fisher Scientific, Clinisys, STARLIMS, LabWare, LabVantage and Orchard Soft all offer their own software and business intelligence dashboards which integrate artificial intelligence to augment capabilities. Some of the key use cases are described below:

  1. STARLIMS recently announced ‘Advanced Analytics 2.0’ in April 2024. This is a cloud-based SaaS module designed to allow analysis in real-time whilst also supporting natural language processing capabilities so customers can search for insights without being restricted by pre-defined fields.
  2. LabVantage uses machine learning, AI and advanced analytics for ease in extracting data from the LIMS and making this accessible to all lab members, without the need for IT support.
  3. Thermo Fisher Scientific also incorporates machine learning into its data analytics solution to predict future resource needs, measure errors in the lab, predict test results and reduce the use of expensive reagents.

In particular, the use of NLP is increasingly common in LIMS/LIS software and can be combined with voice assist. Whilst not essential to BI, it can augment and improve the user experience but does require either some form of in-house vendor expertise or integration with third parties. In this respect, outsourcing both BI and NLP software could be difficult to integrate limiting the availability of partners.

Some solutions also offer predictive and prescriptive analyses for customers. These will generate the most value and ROI in the long-term for vendors.

A Clear Need – But Will Vendors Meet the Demand?

The case for BI, whether it is developed in-house or provided through third party integration is clear for LIMS/LIS users. Vendors are best suited to an approach which reflects each one’s relative stage of maturity and targeted market.

Vendors should consider whether it is financially worth investing in integrating a third-party software or developing a new module, which is directly relevant to whether or not upselling and incremental purchasing is likely for current customers or future opportunities.

AI can also play a significant role in supporting how customers interact with and generate the most use from the intelligence provided. However, vendors should be cautious to not overlook user experience and accessibility when considering BI. AI after all, is only a benefit when it is usable. This is perhaps why comparatively smaller vendors have opted first to develop simpler capabilities than larger competitors like Thermo Fischer Scientific.

Prospective analytics solutions are already being deployed, and these often are developed by larger vendors with larger pockets for R&D. The question therefore, is will smaller more niche competitors be able to respond quickly enough?

This article relates directly to the research conducted as part of our new ‘Laboratory Information Management Systems – 2024’ world market report, which provides a quantitative analysis of the LIMS and LIS markets for stakeholders in the industry.

Please contact Alexandra Bream if you would like a complementary briefing of the research, or discuss any of the insights in this article.

Related Research

This is the second iteration of our Market Report on the global market for Laboratory Information Management Systems for diagnostic, healthcare adjacent and other settings, publishing in September 2024.

This report will allow you to:

  • Determine the main trends affecting LIMS and LIS market growth, revealing how best to strategically position your business to take advantage of drivers in investment.
  • Understand how LIS and LIMS purchasing is changing in order to identify how to compete effectively in RFPs.
  • Answer how the competitive make-up of the LIS and LIMS markets are changing and which vendor partnerships and strategies will be most successful?
  • Understand the impact of AI and structured reporting on Laboratory IT, and identify how vendors can support LIS and LIMS data being utilised in real-world data projects?
  • Determine which markets have a preference for EHR-LIS, best-of-breed LIS, LIMS and bundled LIMS purchasing.

About The Author

Imogen joined Signify Research in 2018 as part of the Healthcare IT team. She holds a 1st class Biomedical Sciences degree from the University of Warwick. During her tenure Imogen has completed studies on digital pathology and the use of AI in drug development, expanding Signify Research’s coverage of clinical/preclinical markets. In her spare time she enjoys cultivating her interest in abstract theatre companies & popping to London to see a show.

Alex joined Signify Research in 2023 as a market analyst in the diagnostics and life sciences area. In summer 2023, Alex graduated from the University of Birmingham with a first-class degree in Biochemistry. At University Alex was the president for the Women in Science and Engineering society and is a big advocate for women in STEM. In Alex’s spare time she likes cooking and enjoys travelling.

About the Diagnostics and Lifesciences Team

The Diagnostics and Lifesciences team provides market intelligence and detailed insights on the multiple healthcare technology markets where the clinical world intersects with the preclinical. Our areas of coverage include digital pathology, laboratory information systems, clinical Real-World Data (cRWD) platforms, oncology information systems, tumour board software, oncology decision support software and radiotherapy IT. Each report provides a data-centric and global outlook of its markets with granular country-level insights. Our research process blends primary data collected from in-depth interviews with healthcare professionals and technology vendors, to provide a balanced and objective view of the market.

About Signify Research

Signify Research provides Healthtech market intelligence powered by data that you can trust. We blend insights collected from in-depth interviews with technology vendors and healthcare professionals with sales data reported to us by leading vendors to provide a complete and balanced view of the market trends. Our coverage areas are Medical Imaging, Clinical Care, Digital Health, Diagnostic and Lifesciences and Healthcare IT.

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