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

Last week I published the second in a series of seven blog posts that discuss some of the misconceptions about lab interfaces and intelligent clinical data extraction software.

Below is the list of misconceptions this blog series will cover in the span of seven weeks. This post addresses the second misconception in bold type in the list below.

  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.Optical character recognition (a.k.a. OCR) isn’t accurate enough for clinical data.

Depending on who you speak to there are several reasons hospitals want to capture test results in discrete data fields in the EMR. Reasons span from productivity, clinician satisfaction, analytics and more. While all of these are valid reasons, the common underlying driver to organize health information in a structured database is to deliver higher quality patient care.

This brings me to the next comment we often hear, “only a small percentage of the reference lab test results we receive aren’t interfaced.” The implication is that since only a small percentage of test results aren’t captured in structured data format, the incremental benefit to capturing the remaining unstructured test results in a structured electronic medical record doesn’t justify the effort to do so.

In many business contexts making investment decisions based on marginal cost-benefit analysis is perfectly rational. However, in the case of patient care, this kind of analysis ignores the impact of such a decision on individual patients.

Arguably, patients whose test results are still managed on paper or in unstructured PDFs are placed at a higher risk than those whose test results are made immediately available to the ordering clinician in their electronic medical record. As a result, these patients don’t receive the same high level of care.

If you’ve already implemented a lab interface(s) and are still manually entering a lot of test results or you’re entering all of your lab results manually 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.