The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has issued guidance to clarify that laboratory results may be transmitted via health information exchanges.

There has been confusion over whether such transmissions were permissible under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1998, called CLIA. In the guidance, CMS noted that the regulations may be incorrectly perceived as a barrier to HIEs, "but we strongly believe that CLIA can be one of several important levers to optimize health information exchange and realize the goals set by ARRA."

Unless specifically prohibited under state law, patients also may directly receive lab results, according to the guidance. CMS says the guidance is the first of an expected series of memoranda in support of electronic exchange of laboratory information. The final version of the guidance soon will be available at cms.hhs.gov/transmittals.

--Joseph Goedert

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