LIMS for Toxicology - Overview

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Toxicology labs may do either qualitative screening testing, confirmation testing, and/or quantitative tests. They may be in-house as part of a program or facility or medical examiner’s office, or a commercial reference lab. Often, they are related to pain management. They may even be research labs. Types of toxicology applications include:
  • Aquatic
  • Business/Employment Screening
  • Clinical/Diagnostic
  • Drug Treatment Programs
  • Ecological
  • Environmental
  • Forensic: Police Dept, Medical Examiner, etc.
  • Pain Management
  • Research
  • Toxicogenomics[1]

A laboratory information management system, or LIMS, for toxicology labs needs to be fully able to meet the needs of any tox lab, no matter which types of testing it does and what its purpose is.

Tox Testing Processes

Most tox labs mainly receive urine and/or blood samples for testing. Depending on the lab's mission, they may also test other types of samples, such as hair, gastric contents, other bodily fluids, etc. Typically, chromatography is a tox lab’s primary testing method, so you may use a GC or GLC, or you may have an ELISA, Chem Analyzer or PCR. A mass spectrometer is often also employed, sometimes linked directly with the GC. A LIMS must be able to integrate smoothly with the lab's instruments - and also other software, databases, services or agencies in use - as well as help users apply the correct CPT or HCPCS “G” codes for each type of screening or quant analysis. A good tox LIMS can let the instruments know what tests are to be performed on which samples, and receive results directly as soon as they are ready. When all results are received for a given order or test request, the appropriate report should be able to be previewed and then issued and archived. Issuing a report should send it securely, using HL7, to designated parties, usually by e-Fax, or make it available to a secure online web portal that requires login credentials. Additionally, in labs where billing is involved, the proper information must be sent to an EHR and/or billing service, or be billed directly through the LIMS/LIS.

What a LIMS Does for a Toxicology Laboratory


You use a LIMS for several reasons:

  • To speed things up. Automating processes and streamlining user interactions can help you improve productivity significantly
  • Reduce or eliminate errors. When you write or type in sample IDs, results and other info, it’s a pretty safe bet mistakes or typos will creep in. Scanning barcodes, transferring IDs and results directly and automatically calling up related info in the system can make these problems basically disappear.
  • Access what you want when you want. Instant retrieval of any records by a variety of criteria - like date range, test type, patient/subject/case, physician, agency, etc., saves time and expedites audits
  • Meet standards and regulations. All of the above, along with built-in access security and data protection, mean it’s a lot easier to meet the certification and standards requirements that apply to your lab.

Additional LIMS Characteristics

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In addition to the main features, it’s the details that can truly make a LIMS a real benefit to your tox lab. These can include things like:
  • Storage and retrieval of demographic data. Once you enter the subject or patient’s info, it’s there whenever you want it, and easily called up by their orders, tests, results and history. Updating their information should be quick and easy anytime you want, including during accessioning if desired
  • Uploading files. The ability to scan and upload paperwork, like test requisition forms, COCs or just any documents, and attach those or any other kinds of files to an order, case, test, sample, subject or patient or physician, provides increased efficiency that saves time and helps meet audit requirements.
  • Prescribed medicine lists. Having prescribed medicines displayed with every order, as well as their histories, can help you get a better understanding of results and how they fit with the bigger picture, especially in pain or drug management facilities or medical examiner or coroner applications.
  • Automatic unique sample and order IDs. These help keep things organized and accurate. And built-in date formats let you know information about the sample before you even look at its details, saving time in a daily operations.
  • Invoicing/Billing. Through built-in invoicing and its ability to interface, a LIMS can direct the relevant information to either a billing service or through an EHR to provide these capabilities where billing is needed.

Technology and Design

The user-end features of a LIMS are functions of the back-end design and technology used. It's important that the technology used and design basis of the system produce high quality functionality, robust reliability, security, good user experience and long life.

Some technological and design characteristics that modern LIMS should provide for most, if not all, toxicology applications include:

  • Cloud-based. The standard has moved away from in-house hosted apps maintained by costly IT departments. And that means the latest technology is available to more labs than ever before. Smaller labs who have been historically marginalized by the amount of investment required to purchase - or build - lab data management software now find themselves able to enjoy the same benefits as larger labs. And collaborative projects are secure, yet easily set up and managed, regardless of geography and time zones.
  • Configurability. Custom development and long implementations are becoming the exception rather than the rule. Today’s LIMS are flexible and USER-configurable. So they last for decades even in changing environments, bringing extended lifetime cost savings.
  • Plays well with others. Your tox LIMS should be able to interface with any instruments you need, as well as your other systems and services.
  • Comprehensive features. Expect extras like inventory and instrument management, certification and training management, CRM and other functionality that just helps you have a better lab data management experience.
  • Affordability. The combination of these elements produces a bottom line that is affordable value. With cloud-hosting, self-reliance and broad functionality out of the box, comes savings in time and money through quicker setup and reduced need for hourly services - which means affordability, no matter what size of lab you have.

Find Out More

To understand just what a LIMS could and should do for your toxicology lab, take a look at the complete LabLynxPress LIMS for TOX Solution Guide, including the video series, book, community and more.
  1. "What are the different types of toxicology?". Retrieved 12/14/2016.