Labs should share COVID-19 test results in health information exchanges

As of today, 2 million Americans have been tested for COVID-19. Around 150,000 tests are being performed every day. Positivity rates vary significantly, from 43% in New York to 2% in Arkansas. The detection of COVID-19 is an extremely important clinical event that every provider in the patient’s care circle should be aware of. If a primary care physician ordered the test and received the result, that information needs to be seamlessly shared with other providers. This way, all of the patient’s doctors can stay coordinated, monitor the patient, and modify their care plans as appropriate.

This is all possible today, but we need labs to join us at the table. Most health systems and tens of thousands of other care sites are sharing clinical data through health information exchanges like CommonWell Health Alliance and Carequality. This allows providers from one clinic to easily retrieve a patient’s records from another clinic, without any administrative hassle. There is critical data in these records, like medications, progress notes, encounters, allergies, and more.

Unfortunately in most cases, lab data is usually missing. While there is a linkage between EMRs and health information exchanges, and that information is easily shared, there is no direct linkage between the labs and health information exchanges. This critical lab data is siloed between the lab and the ordering provider, unable to make its way to all providers who may need it.

We urge labs to contribute their data into our health information exchange, making COVID-19 test results accessible to over 60,000 care sites and hundreds of thousands of care providers. Only providers with a valid treatment purpose can access this information. We need a coordinated effort in this fight, and that is only possible when data is shared.

Today, COVID-19 testing is performed at many different places, like federally run CDC labs, state-run labs, in-house hospital labs, and commercial labs like LabCorp, Quest, and BioReference. The majority of tests are now going through commercial labs, where we already have live bi-directional interfaces. We can use these interfaces to ingest all COVID-19 test results and bring them into the exchanges, without much technical work. In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing some news about labs that are committing to this effort, choosing to be at the forefront of interoperability. Stay tuned.