Public Health Laboratories and Health System Change . The State of Automation in Tennessee


Most environmental testing is automated. However, with the exception of newborn screening most microbiology testing is not automated. In part, this is because the more comprehensive testing offered by the state PHL does not readily lend itself to automation. In addition, the PHL's ability to obtain new equipment has been hampered by budget constraints (last major capital acquisition was in 1995).

The PHL does not use an LIS for its microbiology services. The laboratory is developing a contract with the company that created the Patient Tracking Billing Management Information System (PTBMIS) to obtain a system that can electronically transmit billing, ordering, and lab test information. The system will give the state PHL connectivity with its clients, including the county health departments and the CDC (for disease reporting). The acquisition of this system will depend on decision-making in the state's IRM budget planning.

The environmental side used its equipment budget to develop a LMIS, which has slowly replaced paper based records within the laboratory (including branch laboratories). Currently, the system is used to produce paper reports, which are disseminated to lab clients.

Despite the current lack of automation, the PHL reports no complaints about its turnaround time. Several years ago, the environmental side was generating complaints over slow turnaround times, but it has since corrected this problem.