Recently, several experts testified at a hearing of the information exchange work group of the Federal Health IT Policy Committee. This generated several news articles highlighting the challenges in electronically sending lab test results to EMRs and, specifically, the meeting the new Meaningful Use guidelines under HITECH. Below are links to three articles which are worth reading.
- Government Health IT article: Experts call for widening scope of lab test exchange.
- FederalComputerWeek article: HHS faces hurdles on electronic exchange of medical lab results.
- ModernHealthcare.com article: Panel tackles privacy restrictions regarding lab data. (Note: Registration may be required to access this article.)
Key summary points from the lab test distribution articles include:
- Patient privacy issues are typically covered by HIPAA – Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996; however, there are exceptions for certain lab test orders and results which are covered by CLIA – Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act.
- CLIA states that lab results should be protected but can be released to the person who is “using” or, in other words, ordered the test or to an “authorized person,” defined as an “individual authorized under state law to order tests or receive tests, or both.”
- Several who testified stated that CLIA and HIPAA need to be changed enable more efficient exchange of lab orders and results.
- Another issue highlighted was the importance of having clear healthcare standards and more efficient way to implement interfaces between the various providers. It was highlighted that many lab test results are scanned and faxed to physicians today. The current process of implementing a lab interface can be timely, resource-intensive, and costly. Greater standardization is one way to improve the ability to implement lab interfaces.
In order to meet the Meaningful Use guidelines, other regulatory changes will need to occur. Lab interfaces have received the attention of the HL7 organization, and ELINCS may provide one way to “better” define the data exchange standards. From these articles and the discussion, one thing is clear — much more work needs to be done to meet the goals of HITECH.
To gain insights on using ELINCS to streamlining lab connectivity to Physician EHRs, read the following white paper: Accelerating EMR Interoperability with ELINCS.
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