HealthFebruary 12, 2013

LOINC and Meaningful Use

Under the terms of the Health Information Technology (HITECH) Act, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will provide incentive payments to health care providers who adopt certified electronic health record technology and use it to demonstrate meaningful use of that technology.

In the simplest of terms, Meaningful Use is a set of baseline activities and functionalities that an electronic medical record (EHR) should be able to perform to demonstrate the efficient and significant use of electronic technology. Meaningful Use is envisioned to break down barriers to the electronic exchange of information and decrease the cost and complexity of building interfaces between different systems

It is this hope of electronic data interchange that drives the Meaningful Use requirements for vocabulary. The dream of interoperability or the ability for disparate systems from multiple vendors to exchange data is not yet realized in the healthcare arena. Health information is composed of many data elements all of which have unique data capture needs. In the lab, this complexity is apparent when looking at the needs of reporting and naming general chemistry tests, microbiology tests, tracking blood bank products, and capturing and reporting pathology reports to only name a few! It is easy to see that the obstacles to make exchange of lab data as ubiquitous as the exchange of payment in online shopping are large and complex.

Meaningful Use (MU) Stage One and Stage Two require use of LOINC® as a standard in Laboratory Information System transactions (LIS).  But why use LOINC? LOINC vocabulary is intended to standardize names of:

  • Tests

  • Observations

  • Panels

  • Assessments

LOINC is used to facilitate exchange and pooling of results for clinical quality measures, outcomes management and research. While LOINC is used widely in the laboratory area; it is equally expressive and robust for clinical observations. Use of LOINC can solidify one specific LOINC code for the same specific assay performed in any laboratory in any country that has adopted the system. Specificity enables review of the use of the same test across many health care providers by applying one LOINC code.

While this standardization offers many advantages, most labs do not consistently use LOINC which is why many labs have embarked upon the journey to map their lab catalogues to the LOINC® standards. Mappings allows labs to take their own either proprietary institutional or vendor names and find an equivalent LOINC name and code. This standardization facilities exchange among labs whether within the same network or not…….as long as there codes are mapped to the LOINC® standard. Speak to an expert to learn how Health Language solutions can help your organization improve the quality of your data. 

For further information, visit
What is LOINC and why does it matter?
“Meaningful use” of electronic health records and its relevance to laboratories and pathologists
LOINC® is a registered trademark of Regenstrief Institute, Inc.

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