There's also a precedent for widespread adoption of LOINC, and that is the Direct Project, an agreed-upon protocol for securely transmitting records from one disparate EHR to another. Created by the same S&I Framework team, it is an absolute requirement for every EHR that plans to be Meaningful Use stage 2 compliant, and in the U.S., that would be every EHR that wants to remain in business.
Direct's rapid adoption curve will begin to prove that EHR technology providers can compete more completely on the virtues of their products' features, and not on customer lock-in to a particular set of data formats. Direct's creators hope to see a similar commoditization of EHR technology, all the more remarkable because a number of Direct's creators were the vendors themselves.
Putting Direct and LOINC in perspective goes a long way to explain the immense pressure on the industry to solve other pressing technology interoperability challenges, such as patient identification matching, the main impetus of the CommonWell Health Alliance announced at HIMSS.
CommonWell has the industry atwitter, dominating a portion of the most recent HIT Policy Committee meeting with both skepticism and perhaps wishful thinking as we all wait for the actionable details.
But while we wait to see what fruit CommonWell produces, the payoffs of Direct and LOINC are within our grasp. I asked Vreeman what some of the benefits of LOINC vocabulary being everywhere would provide.
"From a provider standpoint, this movement towards electronic health records and health information exchanges is all about having the data follow the patient," Vreeman says. "Their results, their medical record information, follow the patient wherever they go throughout the healthcare ecosystem. And so, having LOINC codes allows for that to happen between independent systems, but also for say a primary care provider to sort of take in data that might have been originated from several other different sites."