Public Health Laboratories and Health System Change . Laboratory Information Systems

10/06/1997

Improvements in Laboratory Information Systems (LISs) are also transforming the laboratory services environment. In the private sector, large laboratory companies are making significant investments in the development of information resources in hopes of streamlining the core testing business and entering the healthcare data analysis arena. Development of such systems is being hastened by the presence of commercial software vendors and data standards such as LOINC.

Although there is strong interest in such ideas in the public sector, there is less activity and fewer resources to support existing enthusiasm. A few innovative pilot programs have been funded by the CDC, including a pilot study of the transmission of laboratory test results between managed care and the state PHL in Washington. The relatively small size of these markets has served as a deterrent to the development of more capable commercial software, and, while a few companies have ventured into this realm (e.g., EPIC), most PHL software has been developed in-house. The net result is that most PHLs are still using paper records for much of their activity.

On balance, it appears that PHLs may be falling behind in the construction of information infrastructure. If this proves true, it will be increasingly difficult for PHLs to continue operating efficiently. It will also hinder efforts to lighten the disease reporting burden of healthcare providers.