Meaningful Use stage 1 didn't do very much to move toward standardization. According to Regenstrief Institute Investigator Daniel Vreeman, if a laboratory sent an electronic health record system digital lab test results encoded with LOINC, that EHR had to retain those LOINC codes.
Backing up for a moment, LOINC stands for Logical Observation Identifiers Names and Codes. It is a universal code system for identifying laboratory and clinical observations. In Meaningful Use stage 2, LOINC has become a full-fledged menu item. It's still not a core requirement for an EHR, though if the past is any indication, it will be required in the core when we get to Meaningful Use stage 3 in 2017.
But as with many technologies, moving to a standard early can position your organization for productivity gains that could give you an edge over a competitor that lags behind on LOINC.
To understand why, I recently spoke with Robert Coli, MD, a retired gastroenterologist who seems to know everything and everybody connected to laboratory information systems. He is a committed member of the Standards and Interoperability Framework, a public/private group that spearheads the standards embraced in Meaningful Use.
"If you're reporting the test as fragmented data, using infinitely variable reporting formats that change every time a new test is added, the ability to follow the trends over time becomes impossible for the human brain," Coli says.
Fair enough, but now realize that this has bothered Coli since he was interning from 1963 to 1965, and you get an idea of how long forward thinkers in laboratory information sciences have been waiting for a solution.