Lab Tech Standards, With Benefits

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media , April 16, 2013

Is your laboratory thinking about Meaningful Use yet? In all the hubbub over ONC's mammoth incentive program (and the penalties that follow in a few short years if you don't get on board), technology changes affecting every medical lab will provide their own benefits to healthcare's bottom line.

It's been a long time coming.

As far back as the 1960s, it was already understood that a standardized vocabulary for the multitude of lab tests performed in this country was lacking. Those lab tests now amount to about 30-billion-per-year.

While the industry argues about which version of ICD to agree upon in the diagnostic code area, and just how we would get physicians to agree upon these diagnosis codes, information about lab tests were always more amenable to being digitized. A serum sodium test is a serum sodium test, and once a lab test standard exists, there's no reason not to bake it right into the diagnostic equipment itself.

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And yet, as of today, there is no government requirement for labs or healthcare providers to present each other with lab tests coded in a standard way. Regrettably, labs have built their own mini Tower of Babel using proprietary or home-grown codes.

This means that sending results from one system to another, part of that continuity of care we're always talking about, can involve lots of expensive, time-consuming recoding of lab test codes from one system to another.

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1 comments on "Lab Tech Standards, With Benefits"

flpoggio (4/16/2013 at 9:50 PM)
Many good points in this piece, and as you say LOINC codes will be a big help. Yet I have two issues with it: "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." – True but we don't seem to have a problem with Microsoft or Apple charging for each version of their op system, or apps, etc. As a former software developer I have always found this argument unsupportable. Why do you pay $10 for a music CD when it really only costs $1 to copy a disk and package it? Why do you pay $1.00 for an app that costs almost nothing to reproduce? Fact is there is much more that goes into reproducing it than just making or electronically transmitting a copy. Anyone that thinks there are no costs involved after you wrote the initial version has never developed a line of code, or worked in a systems development environment. Secondly, "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.ยด- this is not true at all. Under Stage 2 the vendor must only list the resources needed to complete the install. Dollars do not need to be listed with the resources. The original Stage 2 draft proposal did ask for a price, but in the final version that requirement was dropped. In my opinion it is a meaningless and useless requirement in so much as any CIO that can't list from memory what the typical cost/resource component of installing an EHR are shouldn't be a CIO. Frank Poggio The Kelzon Group




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