Although I confess to a strong bias in this regard, I have always believed that lab test results are a critical component of any electronic medical record. This rule is particularly applicable for PHRs because many lab test results are both understandable and relevant for healthcare consumers. This is one of the foundations for the direct-access-testing (DAT) industry whereby consumers order lab tests for themselves without using a physician intermediary.
It's always satisfying when someone outside of the clinical lab industry independently arrives at this same conclusion. Such was the case for John Moore who blogs over at Chilmark Research and who is an expert on PHRs. Below is an excerpt from his note with bold face emphasis mine (see: Labs, PHRs, Platforms & Consumer Engagement: A Presentation)
The organizer [of Lab InfoTech Summit], Bruce Friedman...asked me to update the audience on what is happening in the PHR market and more broadly, what are the implications, either implied or explicit are trends in PHRs to pathology labs. Took me some time to think this one through, but finally a light-bulb went off in my head! What are KP members most enthralled with in using the KP PHR - its getting their lab results quickly, online and with background information on what those results mean to take appropriate action(s). Then, if one were to look at RHIOs & HIEs, what types of data are the first to move within these Exchanges, lab data and meds. Stepping into ER, what does an ER doc most want to see when a patient presents in ER; labs, meds, and allergies. The need to make lab data “liquid” was everywhere. This “aha moment” led to the creation of a presentation,... that folds in our previous research on PHRs, more recent research on Cloud Computing in healthcare, some even more recent work on RHIOs and HIEs with what all this means to the lab market.
John's coinage of the term "liquid" to describe lab test results is interesting. I take this metaphor to mean that they seem to flow effortlessly into various formats and systems, that they are ubiquitous, and that they can be quickly recognized for what they are and interpreted in a useful way. I believe that this all of this is true with but with one note of caution. My concern would be understandable to any lab professional but not necessarily by healthcare consumers. Lab tests can be misleading unless they are placed into a data context.
A test result never stands entirely on its own. For one thing, it must be accompanied by a so-called reference range. A normal results falls within such a range and an abnormal one is either lower or higher than the range limits. I have posted a previous note about lab test reference ranges (see: A Closer Look at the Standard Clinical Laboratory Reference Ranges). It's also useful to know the original lab performing a test. A blood glucose generated by a patient using a home glucometer does not have the same standing as one performed by an accredited clinical lab.
Some reports for esoteric tests, particularly genomic or proteomic tests, can take up multiple pages and can provide vital interpretive information. Many surgical pathology reports include images of the lesion accompanied by the diagnosis. When test results are replicated from a hospital-based laboratory information system (LIS), one of the challenges is ensuring that the "test result" is completely and accurately transmitted to the receiving information system such as a hospital EMR. This is particularly challenging when the lab report is a complex tabular array, commonly seen with a microbiology report, that may include the antibiotic sensitivities of a bacterial culture.