The days of "snail mail" may be in the past for Pennsylvania laboratories, with most now sending test results electronically. About 93% of the state's 516 independent laboratories and critical care hospital-associated labs participated in a survey conducted earlier this year by the Pennsylvania eHealth Collaborative. Nearly 80% of them confirmed they are electronically submitting data at the present time.
In 2009 the state was awarded $17.1 million under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to help establish an electronic exchange of health information.
Most of the labs use a web portal or a hub when sharing data and indicated they have more than one method of delivery. Robert Torres, Pennsylvania Health Information Technology Coordinator, said there are many benefits to utilizing this method.
"The whole concept of Health Information Exchange is to be able to piece together health information and really have a complete picture of what an individual's health status really is, as opposed to somebody coming in and you have no information, so you're starting from scratch," Torres said.
Of the 97 labs not currently exchanging test results electronically, 36 of them said they plan to begin doing so sometime in the next six to twelve months. Torres said this method is not mandatory, but under federal law, individual states have the power to require it if they choose.
"Labs have some requirements to report, for example, to public health, so there are some requirements, but globally, there isn't a mandate in the future in terms of everyone has to exchange this way," Torres said.
The survey also showed 13% of the 480 participating labs responded they do not plan to use HIE for reasons including cost, lack of technology expertise or interest, and concerns about privacy and security of electronic transactions.