Electronic Public Health Reporting on the Rise

Clinical and public health laboratories have significantly stepped-up electronic reporting of reportable data to public health agencies, according to an analysis published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The report, "Progress in Increasing Electronic Reporting of Laboratory Results to Public Health Agencies—United States, 2013" found that the number of state and local health departments receiving electronic reports from labs has more than doubled since 2005.

This represents good news for public health agencies in their quest to quickly receive and analyze disease outbreaks. It also shows the payoff for CDC in funding, 57 state, local, and territorial health departments since 2007 to assist with electronic laboratory reporting, defined as automated messaging of lab reports using HL7 or other formats and one or more electronic communication protocols.

Snapshot: Electronic Lab Reports by Jurisdiction

As of July 2013, 54 of the 57 jurisdictions were receiving at least some lab reports electronically; overall, about 62% of 20 million lab reports were received electronically, up from 54% in 2012. Of the 10,400 labs that send reports to public health agencies nationwide, about 5,400 are considered priorities for electronic reporting by virtue of their volume of reportable results.

Electronic reporting varied substantially between jurisdictions; 14 received more than 75% of lab reports electronically, while nine received less than 25% by that means. Nearly 40% of all electronic reports came from four major commercial laboratories. Public health labs accounted for about 30% of the electronic reporting volume, while the nation's 5,300 hospital laboratories accounted for about 14%. Electronic reporting also differed by disease category.

Despite these inroads, the report noted that nearly three-quarters of labs, including half those considered priorities, still are not reporting electronically. The authors called for public health agencies, clinical labs, and CDC to collaborate to find ways to see electronic reporting better implemented.