The implementation of electronic health records systems is changing how laboratory data are transmitted and displayed. However, concerns have been raised regarding the usability and interoperability of laboratory data in EHR systems.

Well-designed and rigorously tested EHR systems can improve care by making it easier to collect, share, and interpret patient data, according to a just released paper from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But laboratory data-related interoperability issues and display discrepancies in EHR systems can have serious consequences. Variations in EHR system design, functionality, and ability to exchange data accurately result in preventable patient safety risks. 

The good news is that laboratory professionals can contribute their expertise and perspective to the development of EHR systems that accurately exchange and display laboratory data. In fact, laboratory professionals are critical to ensuring the safety and effectiveness of laboratory data in EHR systems.

The CDC proposes that laboratory professional organizations and laboratory professionals focus their efforts on three areas--engagement, data integrity and usability, and innovation--to ensure the safe and effective use of laboratory information in EHR systems:

* Engagement: Laboratory professionals can provide expertise for health IT decision-making in the design, development, and implementation of EHR systems at both national and local levels; 

* Data Integrity and usability: Laboratory professionals can guide and maintain data integrity and usability to ensure that laboratory data are accurately presented in the EHR and available at the point of care; and 

* Innovation: Laboratory professionals can partner with stakeholders to stimulate innovation in EHR technology and usability to reduce laboratory data-related errors attributed to the use of EHR systems. 

"Laboratory professionals have a unique opportunity to help create health IT systems that enable optimized healthcare decision making, improve the timeliness, consistency and quality of care, add value for providers and patients, and save lives," concludes the CDC. "To do so, laboratory professionals can educate themselves on the promises and pitfalls of EHR systems, and proactively engage in creating the solutions essential to sustaining the transformation of the U.S. healthcare system." 

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