“Single Vendor Solution” Not as Simple as it Appears
Virtually any good LIS, whether new or pre-existing, can be easily integrated to any other clinical information system via a standard HL-7 or ASTM interface. Even so, many EMR vendors seek to sell a “single vendor solution” in which they supply all necessary software, including the LIS. The pitch is that a single vendor approach eliminates interoperability issues and ensures the integrity of the larger system. But that isn’t necessarily so.
These “single vendor solutions” often offer a lab system that may not be well suited to the needs of a particular lab. These lab systems also represent an expenditure over the cost of retaining an otherwise adequate LIS and simply interfacing it to the new system. Additionally, when an LIS is replaced with one from a “single solution” vendor, it usually costs much, much more than a “best of breed” LIS that is also a better fit for the lab.
Nonetheless, “C” suite executives and clinicians are often sold on the “single vendor solution” and lab managers are the last people to know about it. The result is, of course, less than optimal.
The Take Away: Be skeptical of any vendor that insists that interfacing with your existing LIS or with a new “best of breed” LIS is a problem. In reality, it rarely is. Any assertion to the contrary also begs the question of how well the vendor’s system will work with other external systems such as reference labs, pharmacy networks, RHIOs or a national Electronic Health Record (EHR) system (not to mention what they’ll try to charge you for this interoperability once they “own” you). Always contact your current or intended LIS vendor to cross-check these claims.
Suggestions: Keep in mind who benefits financially if, in the process of acquiring a new EMR, you replace a perfectly good LIS, or forego acquisition of a better LIS, to purchase one from the EMR vendor. Ask yourself what you really get in return. Clinical information systems don’t have to come from a single vendor. When it comes to choosing an LIS, who knows better than lab staff which LIS is best suited to fulfill their mission? Consult your staff to see what they feel would be the better solution.