The public health, homeland security and healthcare sectors all recognize electronic transmission of laboratory data as a national priority.

APHL collaborates with CDC and public health laboratories to develop viable options for electronic transmission of laboratory test data. The association's informatics technical assistance team supports the initiatives below.

Electronic Laboratory Reporting Technical Assistance (ELR TA): CDC and APHL are collaborating to offer technical assistance to public health agencies nationwide to help them implement and advance ELR with diverse messaging partners. ELR allows laboratories and public health agencies to exchange data using a fast and potentially more streamlined process. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology included the ability to send ELR to public health agencies as one of the public health elective requirements of Stage 1 Meaningful Use. As eligible healthcare providers develop this capability, public health agencies must update and modify their methodology for processing ELR messages. ELR TA is providing essential assistance to dozens of PHLs.

Electronic Laboratory Surveillance Message (ELSM) for Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (VPDs): 
Morbidity from Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (VPDs) remains significant in the United States despite widespread vaccination. APHL, in conjunction with the CDC National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases’ Division of Viral Diseases and Division of Bacterial Diseases, is working with four public health laboratories serving as VPD Reference Laboratories. These laboratories will conduct diagnostic testing on specimens from state public health laboratories and send VPD results, both positive and negative, to CDC as an Electronic Laboratory Surveillance Message (ELSM) data feed and also by other means. Additionally, VPD Reference Laboratories will maintain capacity, proficiency and appropriate clinical test licensure in molecular diagnostics and other required testing procedures to assist CDC in routine molecular testing for VPDs.

The Public Health Laboratory Interoperability Project (PHLIP): 
PHLIP aims to establish reliable laboratory data exchange between state public health laboratories and the CDC by fostering collaboration in IT and laboratory science.

PHLIP initiatives include:

  • Electronic Laboratory Surveillance Message (ELSM) for Influenza: Most state public health labs are now sending laboratory results for Influenza directly to CDC using automated HL7 v2.3.1 messages that follow uniform messaging standards developed by the PHLIP community.  As a result, CDC epidemiologists receive more data in a format that is ready for analysis.  PHLIP teams are preparing to apply the ELSM system to other Nationally Notifiable Diseases.
  • Vocabulary and Messaging (V&M) Workgroup: The V&M workgroup, made up of PHLIP terminologists and volunteer representatives from participating public health laboratories, has harmonized vocabulary for 14 Nationally Notifiable Diseases, including influenza, HIV, Salmonella, and E. Coli.  The Workgroup also has developed resources for public health laboratories, including HL7 implementation profiles for influenza and Salmonella that guide messaging standards for ELSM and ETOR; a Vocabulary Mapping Workbook and Test Encoding Guidelines that many laboratories have found critical as they implement ELR. 

For more information on APHL's Informatics consulting services, visit the Informatics Consulting Services webpage.