Towards Interoperability for Public Health Surveillance: Experiences from Two States


The use of health information systems to electronically deliver clinical data necessary for notifiable disease surveillance is growing. For health information systems to be effective at improving population surveillance functions, semantic interoperability is necessary. Semantic interoperability is “the ability to import utterances from another computer without prior negotiation” (1). Semantic interoperability is achieved through the use of standardized vocabularies which define orthogonal concepts to represent the utterances emitted by information systems. There are standard, mature, and internationally recognized vocabularies for describing tests and results for notifiable disease reporting through ELR (2). Logical Observation Identifiers Names and Codes (LOINC) identify the specific lab test performed. Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine-Clinical Terms (SNOMED CT) identify the diseases and organisms tested for in a lab test. Many commercial laboratory and hospital information systems claim to support LOINC and SNOMED CT on their company websites and in marketing materials, and systems certified for Meaningful Use are required to support LOINC and SNOMED CT. There is little empirical evidence on the use of semantic interoperability standards in practice.


To characterize the use of standardized vocabularies in real-world electronic laboratory reporting (ELR) messages sent to public health agencies for surveillance.

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December, 2012

August 20, 2018

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