AMIA Supports Multi-agency Effort to Improve Lab Data Interoperability

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Harvard Prof. Gil Alterovitz participates on behalf of AMIA to give perspective on laboratory interoperability

(BETHESDA, MD) – A multi-agency workshop being held today at the National Institutes of Health seeks input on how to improve the interoperability of laboratory data. AMIA supports this effort through the contributions of Gil Alterovitz, PhD, who is at Harvard Medical School with the Computational Health Informatics Program at Boston Children's Hospital.

Six agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Library of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are sponsoring the day-long workshop to discuss ways to promote semantic interoperability of laboratory data. In addition to federal officials, several EHR and LIS vendors, IVD manufacturers and standards development organizations are participating.

“AMIA believes that (1) a good standard separates structure from meaning; (2) standards should be built on smaller building blocks provide flexibility in use; and (3) standards must include context,” Dr. Alterovitz said during prepared remarks. “LOINC and SNOMED satisfy these points for some semantics of interoperability, but interoperability also needs API standards like SMART/FHIR for data conveyance.”

AMIA has spent the last several months developing criteria meant to describe the qualities of desirable standards within the context of health IT interoperability. These criteria are still in draft and will be available in late 2016 as part of a broader effort to articulate Public Policy Principles & Positions.

According to meeting materials, “the purpose of this public workshop is to receive and discuss input from stakeholders regarding proposed approaches to facilitate the adoption and implementation of interoperability standards in a manner that enables consistent, accurate, and harmonized descriptions of in vitro diagnostic tests and results.” Specifically, the agencies are interested in discussing ways to disseminate and implement “device-associated coded information that would relate manufacturers’ codes to the proposed standard codes in a format that their customers could easily import.”

“SNOMED and LOINC have already transformed medicine and are critical for patient care today,” Dr. Alterovitz continued. “Yet, there are places where they are better suited and others where they are not, and thus AMIA supports ‘The evolution of HIT standards that are modular and substitutable, having clear boundaries for use.’ A key example of the need for such modularity and boundaries is emerging in laboratory medicine where centralized code-based databases cannot keep up with rapidly expanding fields, like precision medicine.”

Click here for a copy of presentation delivered by Dr. Alterovitz during the workshop.


AMIA, the leading professional association for informatics professionals, is the center of action for 5,200 informatics professionals from more than 65 countries. As the voice of the nation’s top biomedical and health informatics professionals, AMIA and its members play a leading role in assessing the effect of health innovations on health policy, and advancing the field of informatics. AMIA actively supports five domains in informatics: translational bioinformatics, clinical research informatics, clinical informatics, consumer health informatics, and public health.