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Spring 2021 LOINC conference: A report

Given the need for new laboratory and clinical terminology codes, driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Spring LOINC conference of 2021 grew by one more day to address a variety of projects and LOINC advancements. Developed and managed by the Regenstrief Institute, Logical Observation Identifiers Names and Codes (LOINC), provide standardized descriptions and codes for lab tests and clinical observations. There were sixteen presentations in addition to committee discussions over four days. Organizations from Austria, Spain, Italy, Germany and the USA took time to share projects and advancements of LOINC in their jurisdictions. The workshops, serving as examples of LOINC use cases, involved organizations, projects and tasks as varied as:

  • Office of National Coordinator (ONC)
  • Pharmaceutical companies and the Clinical Data Interchange Standards Consortium (CDISC)
  • Common data models from the Health Care Systems Research Network
  • LOINC in vitro diagnostic (LIVD) publication from IVD vendors
  • Clinical documents – long term archival and exchanges
  • Exome testing
  • Outcome measures – observed and patient-reported
  • Ontologies and knowledge graphs
  • Health Level 7 (HL7) Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) forms
  • Payer usage
  • Gender harmony

This was the first public conference chaired by Regenstrief’s new LOINC Executive Director, Marjorie Rallins. She has held multiple roles in the field of terminology during her career and is already providing great insight regarding running this division of the Regenstrief Institute. The new National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Dr. Micky Tripathi, provided opening remarks. He drew upon his experience as the founding President and CEO of the Indiana Health Information Exchange to provide reality-based comments on moving terminology forward nationally, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As usual, the actual conference committee sessions are free and open to the public; I would encourage all who are interested in data standards and interoperability to participate in future events. The 3M Healthcare Data Dictionary (HDD) team holds seats on all of the LOINC committees (lab, clinical, nursing and radiology) and helps our customers to implement the LOINC terminology fully. In turn, we share the lessons learned from applying LOINC for our clients over the last twenty years during committee discussions.

The combined clinical and laboratory committee meeting included a lively discussion regarding the timing to develop a LOINC mapper certification process. The topic has been brought up several times over the last twenty years, but it seems to be gaining traction as more organizations work to adopt and implement LOINC. It is believed that certification may drive users to acquire a solid education in LOINC, which may help to reduce the inaccuracy in LOINC implementation that has been observed.

Originally, the international fall LOINC Conference was planned as an in-person meeting from November 8 to 10, in Veyrier-du-Lac, France, hosted by the diagnostics vendor BioMerieux. Due to the pandemic, the fall conference will again be virtual. With travel restricted, it’s been great to watch the attendance grow to include many people from around the world. Stay tuned for details on the next public conference and please block time to call in!

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Pam Banning

Pamela Banning, MLS(ASCP), PMP(PMI) has been a member of the 3M HDD team since 1999. As a certified medical laboratory scientist with the American Society of Clinical Pathology, she worked in a variety of healthcare settings such as doctors’ offices, a rural hospital, a trauma center and a national reference laboratory. She migrated into laboratory system database administration, and was introduced to vocabulary standards during implementation projects for LOINC and SNOMED CT. She continues her service as a founding member of the laboratory LOINC committee and represented our team on the Office of National Coordinator Standards (ONC)/Interoperability Framework work group with past focuses including orders implementation guide development, results implementation guide development, and LOINC order code development. Her presentations on project management of terminology implementations at national industry conferences include poster sessions, roundtables, podium lectures, papers and recorded webinars. Pam currently serves on the FDA’s SHIELD team (Systemic Harmonization and Interoperability Enhancement for Laboratory Data), HL7’s LIVD workgroup (LOINC In Vitro Diagnostics), and as the laboratory LOINC committee co-chair for Regenstrief Institute.