A story in the September 26 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) shows that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) efforts to expedite the transfer of information related to dangerous infections to necessary health departments are paying off.
Since 2010, the CDC has fostered the use of electronic laboratory reporting (ELR) by providing funds to 57 state, local, and territorial health departments.
“Implementing these systems is a complex task that requires substantial investment, but ELR will provide health departments the tools they need to quickly identify and respond to disease threats and monitor disease trends now and in the future,” says said Robert Pinner, MD, associate director for surveillance, programs and informatics in CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases, Atlanta.
The MMWR report showed that the number of state and local health departments receiving electronic reports from labs has more than doubled since 2005. In the past year, the number of individual reports received electronically increased by 15%, and the percentage of total lab reports received electronically is nearing two-thirds.
However, the switch to EMR is not complete: Only a quarter of labs in the country currently use electronic lab reports; 76% of reportable lab results for general communicable diseases were sent via ELR compared while only 53% of HIV results and 63% of results for sexually transmitted diseases were sent via ELR.
These numbers are expected to increase in October 2013 when incentive payments are contingent upon ELR use.