Project to assist hospital labs in submitting electronic data

By Molly Merrill
11:09 AM

Surescripts, the American Hospital Association and the College of American Pathologists have been awarded a $4.9 million grant to launch a program to prepare hospitals to submit electronic data on reportable lab results to public health agencies – a Stage 1 requirement for meeting meaningful use incentives.

The grant from the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was announced Monday, will allow the three organizations to work together in what the CDC calls a "Lab Interoperability Cooperative."

During the two-year grant period, the AHA, CAP and Surescripts will recruit, educate and connect a minimum of 500 hospital labs – of which 100 are critical access or rural hospitals – to the appropriate public health agencies.

The network will support all federal and state policies and standards for health information exchange, including privacy and security standards (such as HIPAA and state law), technology interoperability standards (such as NHIN Direct and NHIN Exchange) and message types such as HL7.

[See also: ONC launches Direct Project with pilots in Minn., R.I.]

The cooperative will provide technical assistance to enable hospital labs to begin transmitting lab results electronically within six months, but officials said that assistance has not yet been defined.

The AHA will take the lead on educating and reaching out to hospitals about the project.

The CAP will "actively leverage our relationships with its 17,000 pathologists," said Debra J. Konicek, MSN, RN, BC, the college's director of clinical consulting and mapping.

The goal of the project is to assist hospitals to electronically report a core set of 75-100 lab reports to public health agencies, said Konicek. Hospitals are already required to report this, but the network will prepare them to do it in real time, she said.

[See also: Eligible Hospital "Meaningful Use" Criteria]

The benefits of successful electronic lab reporting to public health agencies is threefold said Seth Foldy, director of the public health informatics and technology program office at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Increase the speed at which a public health agency becomes aware of and can respond to a communicable disease.
  • It will increase the completeness of reporting, removing the "human element."
  • Reduce the manual labor required on both the hospital and public health agency's part.

At the end of the project, hospitals' methodologies for reporting will be sharable and freely available to any health institutions that can use them, said Folds.

Cris Ross, executive vice president of clinical interoperability for Surescripts and Anthony Burke, AHA senior vice president, chief executive officer of AHA Solutions, Inc., (pictured at right) explained what qualifies a hospital for the project:

We are looking for hospitals that are well structured to take on this initiative, said Burke. In other words, organizations that are "out in front" when it comes to interoperability.

Common Technology
The project seeks hospitals that use the same EHRs or lab systems. "Our intent is not to be additive, but really take [hospitals'] investments to a next level," said Burke.

Hospitals participating should be reporting to public health agencies that are "geographically concentrated to some degree," said Ross.

 A "commitment to integration issues," is key for hospital participation, said Burke.