Clinical laboratories and pathology groups must be ready to support physicians’ EMR adoption


In 2011, physicians can earn federal incentives for adopting electronic medical record (EMR) systems and demonstrating “meaningful use.” Every clinical laboratory and pathology group must be ready to deal with this new development. That’s because hundreds of thousands of physicians are about to embark on EMR implementation in their practices—with or without laboratory participation.

Meaningful use was the theme of The Dark Report’s audio conference conducted last month.

Three Experts on Clinical Pathology Laboratory Informatics

Pathologists and clinical laboratory managers participating in the audio conference heard three national experts speak about how mass adoption of EMRs by the nation’s physicians would affect three specific areas of laboratory informatics. The audio conference was titled “How Meaningful Use and EMR Adoption Will Reshape Your Lab’s Competitive Future—and Its Profitability”.

The first expert was Kelly Feist of Sunquest Information Systems. She discussed issues that involve interfaces between EMRs and laboratory information systems (LIS). The second expert covered the range of middleware solutions, often browser-based, that labs use to support electronic lab test orders and lab test reporting. This subject was covered by Rob Atlas, CEO of Atlas Development Corporation.

The third expert will be of particular interest to Dark Daily readers, since he spent most of the past two decades employed by EMR companies. Pat Wolfram, VP Marketing and Client Services, Ignis Systems, has an insider’s view of the fundamental problems many EMR products have in handling electronic lab test orders and accepting delivery of electronic test results.

Pat Wolfram, Ignis Systems Corporation

Pat Wolfram, VP Marketing and Client Services, Ignis Systems, has an insider’s view of the fundamental problems many EMR products have.

Over the past 15 years, Wolfram has implemented solutions that help integrate lab test orders and lab test reporting function with the leading EMR products currently in wide use across the United States. Among other topics, Wolfram noted during the audio conference that there are federally funded programs available to help providers implement EMRs. Many of those programs include in their charters assisting with lab-to-EMR connectivity.

“Every state has funding from the federal government to deploy a Health Information Exchange (HIE)-enabling framework,” explained Wolfram. “States have between $4 million and $8 million—it varies by state—to help providers and medical laboratories within their state deploy EMRs and establish the required connectivity. Pathologists and lab managers can get the full details on those programs from two places: the state’s regional extension center program, and the state’s HIE initiative. More general information about the federal programs can be found at CMS’s website about the EHR Incentive Program.

Specific Advice for Creating an LIS-to-EMR Interface

Wolfram was interviewed in July by The Dark Report on the ramifications of the meaningful-use guidelines that had just been made public by federal policymakers. In the interview, he emphasized that the clinical laboratory testing industry should be proactive in its efforts to shape federal policy.

Wolfram suggested that both the laboratory testing industry—as well as individual medical labs—would be well served to issue “report cards” that grade the strengths and weaknesses of individual EMR products when it comes to the EMRs’ ability to effectively enable laboratory test orders and laboratory test reporting.

“There’s a lot the lab industry can do to get ahead of this game,” noted Wolfram. “Clinical laboratories should work together and proactively prod EMR vendors to configure their products in ways that make it simple and robust for laboratories to build LIS-to-EMR interfaces.

“It is not a smart strategy for medical laboratories to wait for the doctor to knock on their doors and say, ‘I bought a new EMR. When’s my interface going to work?’” observed Wolfram. Later this month, Ignis Systems will conduct a webinar for its clients titled “Keeping Your Lab Ahead of Meaningful Use.” During this session, Wolfram will elaborate on how meaningful use will drive physician behavior during EMR implementation.

He will discuss his recommendations on how clinical labs can proactively reach out to client physicians during their EMR procurement cycle. The strategy is for laboratories to educate their clients about the requirements for effective interoperability between the lab’s LIS and the physician’s EMR. He will identify and describe specific technologies, implementation methods, benchmarks, and communication strategies that successful laboratories are using as they interface their LIS to physicians’ EMR systems.

Wolfram has generously offered to allow Dark Daily subscribers and readers to participate in this webinar at no charge. The webinar takes place Wednesday, October 27th at 3:00 P.M. Eastern/12:00 P.M. Pacific. To participate, Dark Daily readers should go to https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/293928082 and fill out the online registration form.

More than 360,000 individual physicians are expected to purchase and implement an EMR system in the coming 48 months. This is three times the number of physicians currently using EMRs daily in their medical practice. Every clinical laboratory and pathology group in the United States needs to have a strategy in place to support physicians as they take active steps to demonstrate meaningful use and qualify for the tens of billions of dollars in federal incentives that will be paid out between 2011 and the end of 2014.

Related Information:

“How Meaningful Use and EMR Adoption Will Reshape Your Lab’s Competitive Future—and Its Profitability”

CMS EHR Incentive Program

CMS and ONC Issue Regulations Proposing a Definition of “Meaningful Use” and Setting Standards for Electronic Health Record Incentive Program

HHS Announces Additional $162 Million in Recovery Act Investment to Advance Widespread Meaningful Use of Health IT

The Dark Report