Since 1979, Coli and others have been trying to standardize the format of lab results "as clinically integrated, actionable information, not incomplete, fragmented, almost raw data," Coli says.
When I spoke with Coli, he revealed that LOINC-compliant interfaces are now in pilot testing at nine major sites. S&I Framework participants, including lab giants Quest and LabCorp, have created implementation guides and reference implementations, and these have been balloted with HL7, the nonprofit organization whose standardizing messaging undergirds most of the communications between disparate health IT systems today.
Through these pilots and EHRs that support LOINC, lab results can flow into EHRs in doctors' offices and hospitals and be understood with no recoding necessary.
Why you should care deeply about all this is the opportunity it presents to commoditize the currently (in Coli's words) "exceptionally lucrative business" of writing custom interfaces for every laboratory information system to EHR. We're talking thousands of dollars for each new custom interface developed today. And the EHR vendor is not required to sell the interface any more cheaply to the second, third or later customers of that same interface.
In that sense, Meaningful Use stage 2 is exceptionally good news for healthcare executives: For the first time, EHR vendors will be required by regulation to disclose the costs of these custom interfaces before you, the customer are required to purchase them.
But commoditization of these interfaces goes further still. According to Coli, the cost of such interfaces will be "remarkably reduced" by standardization on LOINC.