Laboratory Interoperability is Essential to Improving Healthcare

Barriers to lab data interoperability include lack of standardized lab order and lab reporting interfaces. Learn how to successfully standardize interfaces with minimal disruption to work and productivity.

By Hassan Zahwa

A young woman living with a rare disease initially waited months for her doctors to identify the cause of her symptoms. One of the reasons it took so long to obtain a diagnosis: insufficient interoperability between healthcare providers. She had seen multiple doctors for symptoms related to her condition, but lack of interoperability between facilities combined with delayed test results lengthened her time to diagnosis.

Time to diagnosis and intervention is critical for optimal disease management and a crucial driver of both patient outcomes and satisfaction. Despite the advanced state of medical technology in the U.S., this situation is all too common, particularly in diagnosing systemic disorders.

The clinical laboratory plays a crucial role in disease diagnostics. It provides accurate and timely test results that enable healthcare professionals to make informed decisions regarding patient treatment and management. Improved laboratory interoperability enables health systems to achieve efficient, reliable, cost-effective, and high-quality healthcare.


Advocating for Standardized Interfaces

When it comes to lab data interoperability, healthcare organizations face a significant barrier: There are no universal implementation guides for lab order interfaces (LOIs) or lab reporting interfaces (LRIs). According to The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, this lack of standardized LOI/LRI implementation guidance increases costs and complexity — and that in turn prevents broader adoption of common interfaces.

By seeking guidance for adopting recommended LOI and LRI protocols, organizations can:

  • Reduce their administrative burden
  • Increase lab data accuracy
  • Enhance patient safety by reducing diagnosis and treatment errors
  • Improve care delivery and patient outcomes through timely access to test results

Despite the benefits of LOI/LRI adoption across the broader healthcare system, adoption remains low. Guidehouse interviewed nine stakeholders across the healthcare ecosystem, including healthcare organizations (clinical partners such as health systems, hospitals, and national commercial and public health laboratories), technical partners (EHRs and laboratory information management systems vendors), national advocacy groups, and standards organizations to better understand the barriers to LOI/LRI adoption. These insights coupled with our subject matter expertise and review of recent literature published on this topic provide and all-encompassing picture of barriers to LOI/LRI adoption. The results of the interviews can be viewed in Graph 1.

Femtech Labs


Femtech Labs


Five Keys to Standardizing Interfaces

Beyond these mitigation strategies, Guidehouse has a robust history of working with organizations to improve adoption and implementation of standardized EHR interfaces. By harnessing our patented capabilities and tools, laboratories can successfully implement LOI/LRI.

  1. Develop targeted protocols that clearly outline the benefits of LOI and LRI adoption, allowing key healthcare contributors to identify how LOI/LRI can maximize CMS/Medicaid reimbursement, improve patient safety, and reduce duplicative efforts to improve staff productivity
  2. Learn from positive deviance by conducting workshops designed to showcase successful examples of implementation within partner organizations, facilitating increased market demand for implementation of LOI/LRI. This can include marketing success stories at conferences or other networking events so key stakeholders are made aware of proven case studies outcomes from counterparts across different industries
  3. Advocate for broader industry use by participating in both legislative efforts as well as partnering with state agencies on decision-support initiatives around clinical decision support systems regulations
  4. Promote standardized implementation by providing resources such as white papers, webcasts, or research analyses related to decreased costs associated with various automated interface processes like HL7 message routing via their consulting services
  5. Leverage advanced health IT monitoring solutions to provide real-time insights into adoption rates and quality metrics associated with LOI/LRI implementation across partner organizations, gauging the effectiveness of initiatives over time

Guidehouse’s wealth of experience and knowledge can help organizations successfully adopt LOI/LRI with minimal disruption to work and productivity. 

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