Why Get a Lab Interface and Cost of Implementation

Posted on July 25, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’m always sad when I come across an EMR implementation that doesn’t have an interface between their EMR and their lab. I can appreciate someone having just implemented an EMR not having a lab interface. However, it should be one of the first things on your list to implement. It’s such a great compliment to your EMR software.

First thing I must suggest is that you get a bi-directional lab interface if at all possible. One way lab interfaces can work, but do take more management to make it work right.

Why Get a Lab Interface with Your EMR?
Lab interfaces are so seamless. The order is made in the EMR and it’s automatically is sent to the lab. Talk about removing a lot of the possibilities for error. In our case, we have an in house lab and so this saves a ton of time for the lab rat tech as well. No more data entry into the Lab’s LIS system. As a side note, we also use the lab order in our EMR to print out the labels for the specimen. This is an unbelievable time saver and much more accurate. Small things like this are just another hard to calculate benefit to an EMR.

The largest benefit to a lab interface is receiving the results back electronically. Compare this to receiving a paper copy of the lab results. Often this paper copy is sent to a fax machine and then the hunt begins to get that result to the right paper chart/person. The time savings here are apparent. With a lab interface, you no longer have to file the lab results in the paper chart (or scan them into your EMR). The results are automatically available in the EMR and routed to the ordering provider. They can be signed electronically and no one has to then go back and refile the chart.

What’s even more important is that with the lab interface all of those lab results are now stored in discrete values. Storing the lab results this way means that you can graph lab results over time, do studies on lab results across your patient population, and eventually may be needed to satisfy the government and insurance reporting requirements.

Cost of a Lab Interface
Many people are often surprised to find out that there’s sometimes a cost associated with implementing a lab interface. In fact, there could be multiple costs involved.

The costs depend a lot upon your EMR vendor and the lab with which you’d like to interface. Some EMR vendors will offer a lab interface for free (or part of the standard cost of the EMR) while others will charge. The same is true for labs. However, more labs are willing to offer their interface for free. Often that just requires the right negotiating skills. If you’re a large customer of that lab, then if you talk to the right people you can usually get the interface for free. Labs are easier to negotiate with since a lab interface benefits the lab as well. $5,000 seems like the standard charge (from what I’ve seen) for most interfaces. Yes, that’s possibly $5,000 to your EMR vendor and another $5,000 to your lab.