Electronic Lab Reporting Mandated in Public Health Departments

Electronic Lab Reporting Mandated in Public Health DepartmentsDiseases which merit being notified are usually underreported. This is according to health informatics expert Virginia A. Caine, M.D., director of the Marion County Public Health Department and a past president of the American Public Health Association. “This is a major problem in combating some very serious illnesses where needed resources or initiatives may not get to the targeted populations”, she adds.

Underreporting of diseases becomes a big problem for the healthcare department since they are not able to monitor existing diseases and health concerns. This translates to difficulty in eliminating or controlling some very serious illnesses because of the possibility of not being able to deliver healthcare resources to the target population.

In lieu of this, a new health informatics study was conducted by researchers from the Regenstrief Institute Inc. in association with the Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. The research predicted that notifiable disease case reports would double once automated electronic laboratory reporting of notifiable diseases gets implemented in 2015. Although previous studies have shown the increase in the case reports coming in, this would be a first in estimating the volume increase once the required electronic laboratory monitoring, which is under the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ meaningful use program, starts.

The health informatics research team utilized data gathered from the Indiana Network for Patient Care to be able to give their prediction. The Indiana Network for Patient Care, which was developed by the Regenstrief Institute and operated under license by the Indiana Health Information Exchange, is an electronic database which captures and stores medical records including laboratory results, medication and past medical histories. The database is home to several million of medical information with clinically relevant data.

Disease reports and statistics are usually being reported by physicians and hospitals to their local health departments through the phone, fax and email. A great advantage of electronic laboratory monitoring is that the medical data is more secured and is assured to be safely stored. Additionally, data transfer or transmission is greatly improved. This characteristic is very important in instances when time is critical to the management and prevention of the disease.

Dr. Brian E. Dixon, MPA, Ph.D., Regenstrief Institute investigator, health informatics researcher and assistant professor of health informatics at IUPUI and a Department of Veterans Affairs research scientist, stated that the increase estimated by the team would definitely impose a significant effect on the tight resources of the local and state health departments. But, he adds, that this study would be able to aid public health officials to impose necessary policies and to plan for the near future.

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