American Association for Clinical Chemistry
Better health through laboratory medicine
April 2007 Clinical Laboratory News: Labs Among Most Wired Hospital Departments

April 2007: Volume 33, Number 4

Labs Among Most Wired Hospital Departments

Clinical labs stood at the forefront of hospitals’ progress toward adopting information technology (IT) during 2006, according to a recent American Hospital Association (AHA) survey focused on electronic health records (EHRs) and other types of IT. The responses from top administrators at 1,500 hospitals revealed that efforts to use computerized physician order entry (CPOEs), electronic results review, and barcoding have been concentrated in labs.

According to respondents, physicians used CPOE systems more often for laboratory and other tests than for medications. Overall, 16% of hospitals said that treating physicians routinely used CPOE systems for lab and other tests at least half the time, versus 10% for drugs. Among hospitals with fully implemented EHRs, almost 60% had at least some physicians ordering laboratory tests electronically, with 28% reporting that 50% or more of the physicians did so. As might be expected, CPOE use was more common in larger, urban, and teaching hospitals. In 32% of hospitals with 500 or more beds, almost all physicians routinely ordered laboratory and other tests electronically.

Citing a CDC estimate that laboratory results produce 70% of the information in a patient’s medical record, the AHA report noted that labs were most often the sites of hospitals’ early implementation of clinical IT functions. In 2006, 78% of hospitals had review of electronic lab results either fully or partially implemented, up from 75% in 2005. For electronic lab order-entry systems, that figure was 72% during 2006, representing little change from 2005. In radiology, order-entry and review of images and results trailed lab functions in implementation of IT during 2006, with hospitals reporting rates of partial or full implementation at 70%, 77%, and 64%, respectively.

Although not a direct part of the EHR, labs also led the way in the use of barcoding. Hospitals reported their greatest use of barcoding was for lab specimens, with 57% employing the technology for this purpose during 2006, versus 53% in 2005.

Overall, hospitals’ use of IT is growing. Sixty-eight percent had either fully or partially implemented EHRs in 2006, while the 11% with fully implemented EHRs were likely to be large, urban teaching hospitals. Those institutions that called use of health IT “moderate or high” also increased during 2006, with 46% reporting so, versus 37% in 2005.

Click here for a full copy of the report, which focuses on EHRs and CPOEs and explores the evolutionary nature of IT adoption.