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Push for Electronic Health Records

lab_testingYesterday at a health policy panel, a top executive stated that most lab reports are still on paper. In order to have a national electronic health record system, this is one of the key components and steps: digitizing lab tests. There are about 200,000 medical labs in the United States comprising of hospitals, clinicians’ offices and commercial labs.

Moreover, most of these labs are failing to use standards when they are reporting different lab test results. Ultimately, there is a lack of uniformity with the vocabulary and messages in the records.  According to NextGov, David Blumenthal, the national coordinator for health IT, said, “he could not require the standards because HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebeluis has the authority only to adopt standard, not issue them.”

According to President and CEO of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, Tripathi, these labs need to follow electronic messaging standards. Tripathi believes the labs should not make their own personal tweaks because this goes against the goal of a national health record system. These standards have been developed by Health Level Seven standards organization.

There are still more layers of work to be done before adopting this national health record system. First, federal regulations need to be changed to make sure patients get quick access to lab test results. Also, in order for the exchange of data between hospitals and clinicians, the Department of Health and Human Services needs to create some sort of directory that can look up a patient’s medical information. With this medical phone book, each patients data would be able to be pulled up. Finally, this electronic records system must be able to protect privacy, and ensure authentication as it moves between different parties.

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