HL7 to Adopt and Maintain ELINCS Lab Standard

IHE to test ELINCS in preparation for national interoperability showcase

In a step forward for broader adoption of electronic health records, Health Level Seven (HL7) will begin a process to adopt and maintain the EHR-Lab Interoperability and Connectivity Specification (ELINCS), according to the California HealthCare Foundation, which funded ELINCS development.

ELINCS is a data format that enables standardized lab results reporting between clinical laboratories and clinician office EHR systems.

In addition to having a permanent home within HL7, ELINCS will be part of the Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise’s (IHE) Connectathon in Chicago (January 15-19, 2007).

Also, several lab and EHR vendors will demonstrate ELINCS at the upcoming Interoperability Showcase at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) annual conference in New Orleans (February 26-March 2, 2007).

HL7 is an internationally recognized standards development organization for health information. After the adoption process is completed, HL7 will assume responsibility for the ongoing maintenance and further development of ELINCS, as it migrates from the current HL7 v2.4 standard to the new HL7 v2.5.1 standard.

ELINCS was developed by experts from commercial labs, electronic health record vendors, government agencies, professional associations, and nonprofit organizations. ELINCS standardizes the formatting and coding of electronic lab results and has been proposed by the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT) as a certification criterion for ambulatory EHRs.

“Given the high quality of the ELINCS specification and its value to the health care industry, HL7 is pleased to undertake the process of adopting ELINCS and its long-term development and maintenance, said Bill Braithwaite, HL7 board member. “We feel that HL7’s open, rigorous, and multi-stakeholder standards-development process provides an appropriate home for implementation guides of widespread applicability and national importance, such as ELINCS.”

Pilot implementation of ELINCS in 2006 involved national health information technology vendors and diverse health care organizations in California, including commercial laboratories and physician groups. These tests indicated that ELINCS is a useful and widely applicable standard specification for the electronic reporting of lab results. Following the pilot testing, several key industry groups including CCHIT and the Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel (HITSP) called for ELINCS to have a permanent home with a standards development organization.

“We welcome ELINCS participation in the IHE process and the demonstration at HIMSS 07,” said Joyce Sensmeier, HIMSS vice president of informatics. “This type of collaboration is essential for realizing the impact of interoperability on the delivery of efficient and safe patient care.”

ELINCS will enable providers to receive clinical data electronically and make data in EHRs not only consistent, but readily searchable. This will prove especially useful in managing patients with chronic health problems, such as diabetes or heart disease.

The ELINCS standard specification will enable health care providers with EHRs to integrate and use lab results from various sources. ELINCS also promises to reduce costly redundancies in the clinical setting and provide a much-needed roadmap for connecting EHR systems with lab vendor information systems, a process that has proven costly and time-consuming in the past.

“We expect that the transition to HL7 will ensure the success of ELINCS,” said Sophia Chang, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Chronic Disease Care Program at the California HealthCare Foundation. “Broader adoption of EHRs will pave the way for improved patient safety and better clinical quality.”

For more information on ELINCS, visit www.elincs.org through the link below.

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About the California Health Care Foundation

The California Health Care Foundation is dedicated to advancing meaningful, measurable improvements in the way the health care delivery system provides care to the people of California, particularly those with low incomes and those whose needs are not well served by the status quo. We work to ensure that people have access to the care they need, when they need it, at a price they can afford.