Part one of a seven part blog series about EMR - lab results interoperability.

In the course of helping hospitals automate data entry of clinical lab results into the EMR (or LIS in cases where all orders are centrally managed) we’ve spoken to thousands of healthcare professionals about their lab results reporting procedures. Invariably the subject of “lab interfaces” comes up. There are several misconceptions about interfaces and intelligent clinical data extraction software and lab results interoperability in general that I’ll attempt to clear up in a series of seven blog posts.

If you’re anticipating that this is just another shameless article slamming a competing technology that is not at all my intention. So, I’d like to clearly state right up front that a lab interface is the most direct method to capture test result values in the EMR data fields. As a vendor of technology that is often incorrectly perceived to compete with interfaces or interface engines, I’m comfortable saying an interface is in fact the ideal method. Unfortunately, as is the case with all ideals, lab interfaces don’t provide an answer for every situation. In fact, in the case of lab results, interfaces may only be a viable solution less than 50% of the time. For the remaining 50% you have a lot of different options for how to ‘capture’ test results in the EMR and understandably there’s a lot of confusion. The extent to which lab results can be received through a lab interface is dependent upon a number of variables affecting lab results interoperability that I may address in a separate blog post series in the future.

Each week I’ll address one of the following misconceptions in a separate blog post to hopefully clear up any misunderstanding.

  1. We are implementing or already have an interface to Quest and/or Labcorp and no longer have to manually enter test results.
  2. Only a small percentage (typically estimated to be 10 – 30%) of lab results don’t come through the interface so it’s not a high priority problem.
  3. We have an in-house lab that handles our lab tests.
  4. All of our test equipment is interfaced with the LIS, which is integrated with our EMR.
  5. For non-interfaced test results we already have scanning software.
  6. Optical character recognition (a.k.a. OCR) isn’t accurate enough for clinical data.

If you’ve already implemented a lab interface(s) and are still manually entering test results or scanning lab results in the HIM department and haven’t yet implemented an interface, we encourage you to speak to one of our health information specialists for a no obligation assessment to determine whether an automated clinical data extraction solution is right for you.


About the Author: Greg Gies

For 20 years in the software industry, Greg Gies has been helping businesses, government agencies and healthcare organizations achieve their goals and carry out their missions by making better use of information and automating business processes. Greg has held positions in sales, product management and marketing and holds an MBA from Babson College. He works and lives with his wife and three boys in the Boston area.