Lab Matters Winter 2021 | Page 26


Strengthening Electronic Laboratory Reporting for Response

By Sam Abrams , MPH , senior specialist , Public Health Preparedness and Response
Responding to a potential biological or chemical threat requires coordinated efforts among public health stakeholders . As members of the Laboratory Response Network ( LRN ), public health laboratories utilize electronic information systems to collect testing data and provide results to sample submitters and other external partners . These data are used to determine appropriate treatment options for individuals and , on a population basis , may be used as part of a surveillance program . COVID-19 and past outbreaks illustrated the importance of timely laboratory results . Today , an urgent need still exists for modernized electronic data systems , including Electronic Laboratory Reporting ( ELR ).
Strengthening ELR
APHL and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC ) have partnered to strengthen the public health system by assisting laboratories with the implementation of ELR to ensure that important testing information is sent quickly and securely to partner agencies . Via funding from CDC , APHL is supporting up to 12 public health laboratories with enhancing electronic data exchange of biological and chemical threat agents and metabolites , which include anthrax and nerve agents , among others . The implementation of ELR represent significant advancements for electronic data exchange over current generation technology used for LRN data messaging . These include improving the speed and accuracy of data transmission to CDC while ensuring consistent report formatting despite originating from different sources . This approach enables both CDC and state and local public health agencies to mount a more effective response , providing appropriate preventive treatments and limiting exposure to other individuals .
Maintaining Standards
Successful implementation of ELR hinges on the utilization of Health Level 7 ( HL7 ), which provides standards and guidelines to ensure that individual laboratories across the country can communicate to CDC uniformly . Although LRN laboratories employ a range of electronic information systems , maintaining HL7 standards guarantees that critical information will be accurately received by CDC . Public health laboratory staff are working closely with informatics vendors and the CDC Informatics and Data Science Branch LRN Data Integration Team to complete updates to their systems by June 2021 .
ELR integration into laboratory information systems provides a significant step in advancing public health laboratory data reporting capabilities . In supporting public health laboratories , both APHL and CDC are strengthening the nation ’ s laboratories ’ ability to mount effective response measures for a range of biological and chemical threats . n
DIGITAL EXTRA : For more information about how your LRN laboratory can participate in the ELR Data Integration Project , contact Sam Abrams .
24 LAB MATTERS Winter 2021
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