If the results of laboratory tests are to be usable in various facilities, they must be expressed the same way by everyone
Points of view | 15 Mar 2012
Point of view by Catherine Courboillet, CEO of Cerba European Lab.
Sharing and exchanging health data is dependent partly on the development of interoperable computer systems and partly on the use of shared terminology by all professionals. Medical biology is taking the lead on these semantic interoperability issues.
The group has a presence in more than 90 laboratories and 150 testing sites, in Europe, the United States, South Africa, Australia and China. It employs more than 1,800 people, including 120 pharmacists and clinical pathologists, and carries out over 200,000 lab tests every day.
Improvement of our healthcare system involves creating fair and equitable access to care for all, ensuring that healthcare professionals are accessible and available, implementing a true partnership between the public and private sectors, and rapid and effective communication and information sharing between healthcare professionals.
The Cerba European Lab network of laboratories is focused on researching and developing new tests, on developing its production and logistics facilities, on anticipating increasingly demanding quality reference standards, and on improving the quality of communication between laboratory scientists and clinicians.
Results of laboratory tests are essential medical data that are shared between various healthcare professionals in the co-ordinated care pathway.
Currently, laboratory test results are sent as image or text files, but it is not possible to integrate them into computer systems in laboratories or clinics, as these differ so much.
Regardless of the format used, if the results of laboratory tests are to be usable in various facilities, they must be written in terminology that is used by everyone. This is a nomenclature for communication, which is distinct from the varied specialist terminology used in laboratories, but which is not unconnected with it; such a nomenclature must enable results from some or all tests in a report to be imported into the database of the doctor who is consulting the report. As laboratory tests do not vary by country, it makes sense to opt for an international nomenclature, as long as the headings are translated into the main language of the shared record.
The Cerba European Lab group is taking an active part, as a member of the French laboratory computer systems society (SFIL), in a working group whose aim is to adapt a selection from the LOINC international nomenclature (Logical Observation Identifiers Names and Codes), thereby creating a national laboratory test nomenclature.
This project is a response to one of the most important issues of the moment, to ensure that the sharing of medical data, and in particular laboratory test results, is based on nationally and internationally recognized terminology.
The Cerba European Lab group is working on other essential areas, namely how to guarantee security, confidentiality and interoperability between existing systems when exchanging test results.