Pathology groups and medical labs see lab hubs as a way to reduce to cost to interface with EMRs and HIEs
It’s no secret that clinical laboratories and pathology groups are being asked to interface their laboratory information systems (LIS) to the electronic medical record (EMR) systems of office-based physicians and other types of providers. Blame it on HITECH, Meaningful Use, and the substantial monetary incentives offered by the federal government.
Right now, tens of thousands of doctors across the United States are at some stage of purchasing and implementing an EMR system within their medical practice. “Each time a medical clinic adopts an EMR, you can bet that one of the first things the physicians do is to request that their clinical lab provider electronically transmit laboratory test results directly into their patients’ records within the EMR,” observed Charles Halfpenny.
“Now that healthcare is in year two of Meaningful Use (MU), three trends are emerging that change how office-based physicians and payers use information technology (IT),” he noted. “As expected, one trend is the rapid increase in the number of office-based physicians who are adopting EMR systems. There are no surprises there.
Health Information Exchanges Want Clinical Laboratory Test Data
“It is the second trend that surprises some clinical laboratory administrators,” continued Halfpenny. “The number of operational health information exchanges (HIE) continues to grow.
“In these regions, two things are relevant,” noted Halfpenny. “First, HIEs want to handle lab test data, for reasons well known to pathologists and clinical lab managers. Second, some HIEs struggle to accept lab test data and pass it along to physicians and other providers. Here is where a lab hub and use of LOINC (Logical Observation Identifiers and Numeric Codes) can offer labs great leverage.
“The third interesting trend is that private health insurers now want lab test data, as well as other utilization information from clinical labs and pathology groups,” he added. “Payers are competing for employer business by building patient portals that contain lab test data and other clinical information.”
These three trends are at the root of why labs and pathology groups are under pressure to spend more money to beef up their lab informatics capability. Few clinical laboratory organizations can support the costs of creating custom LIS-to-EMR interfaces for each of their client physicians. “This typically requires the clinical laboratory to spend significant money to write an interface that connects the LIS to the physician’s EMR system,” he continued. “The next challenge comes if the lab must get that physician’s EMR vendor to cooperate in building a working LIS-to-EMR interface.”
One way that laboratory informatics vendors are helping labs meet the interface demands of physicians implementing an EMR system is to develop a “lab hub” strategy. In this business model, the IT vendor works with the most popular EMR vendors to build lab data interfaces to each different EMR product. Then, the lab informatics vendor only needs to develop one LIS-to-Lab Hub interface with a clinical lab in order for that laboratory to be able to electronically transmit patient results through the lab hub and from there directly into the patient record of the client physician’s EMR system.
Use of LOINC Expanding As Payers, Providers Want Lab Test Data
Similarly, users of clinical laboratory test data are recognizing that LOINC is a useful tool in assembling lab test results from different laboratories. It’s no secret that clinical laboratories and pathology groups are being asked to interface their laboratory information systems (LIS) to the electronic medical record (EMR) systems of office-based physicians and other types of providers.
“For example, HIEs and private health insurance plans—because they want to accept medical laboratory data—are incorporating LOINC into their informatics schemes,” stated Halfpenny. “Blame it on HITECH, Meaningful Use, and the substantial monetary incentives offered by the federal government. Compared to just two years ago, before HITECH took effect, our company has an active and growing book of business to build LOINC-based capabilities on behalf of lab customers, HIEs, and payers.”
These three laboratory informatics trends do require study and response by laboratory organizations. After all, clinical laboratory test data represents the largest single proportion of the patient health record. That’s precisely why physicians, HIEs, and payers want true electronic data interchanges (EDI) with clinical laboratories and pathology groups active in their service region.
To help clinical lab administrators and pathologists understand these trends and learn more about new informatics strategies that deliver value to physicians, HIEs, and payers, The Dark Report and DarkDaily have invited Charles Halfpenny to speak at a special audio conference titled “How Your Lab Can Leverage HIEs, Lab Hubs, and LOINC to Win New Business and Advance “Meaningful Use” of Client-Physicians.”
As the healthcare system moves toward full integration of clinical information, every clinical laboratory, hospital laboratory outreach program, and anatomic pathology group will need an informatics strategy that supports the electronic transmission of lab test data from the LIS to HIEs and the EMRs of office-based physicians. That is why more labs are already exploring how to use lab hubs and LOINC so they can deliver more value to client physicians and other providers in their service region.