New lab informatics courses introduce basics to non-specialists  

New lab informatics courses introduce basics to non-specialists  

Two online laboratory informatics courses now on the CDC TRAIN site help laboratory staff to understand how their jobs relate to their laboratory’s informatics system. Developed by APHL and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in collaboration with the APHL Informatics Committee and members of the target audience, the courses follow a TB specimen as it advances through testing and reporting to inform decisions by clinical care providers and public health agencies.

Historically the term “informatics” evoked fear among laboratory staff who avoided the unfamiliar discipline. Responsibility for the function often devolved to one person who became the de facto informatician more by accident than by intent. When the new skill set proved highly marketable, this individual often departed for new opportunities, leaving the laboratory with no one who could distinguish between LOINC and SNOMED codes, much less maintain the Laboratory Information Management System.

But times have changed. With electronic data now integral to work at both private and public sector laboratories, all staff require a basic knowledge of informatics. With an understanding of how the data they touch flows in and out of their facility, staff can improve the quality and speed of laboratory operations and, ultimately, patient treatment and disease control.

The two online courses, Life of a Specimen and Life of a Result, trace the testing and reporting process in plain language, explaining who comes into contact with the specimen at each point, when errors are most likely to occur and how to avoid them, and how a specimen becomes a result and is reported to stakeholders. Both courses offer P.A.C.E.® credits. Visit CDC TRAIN to register.

Specifically:

  • Life of a Specimen introduces staff roles in laboratory informatics, data relationships, data quality and standards, and the generation and flow of information as a specimen progresses through the pre-analytic, analytic and post-analytic phases.
  • Life of a Result examines how data and information move through and outside the laboratory to impact clinical care and public health decision making.  It covers the recipients of laboratory data, data and results storage, and communication of data and results to stakeholders.

The two courses would be a valuable addition to staff onboarding programs at laboratories of all types. Keith Higginbotham, IT systems manager at the Alabama Department of Public Health, laments that such training was not available earlier in his career:

“I wish I’d had access to this training when I was first starting out. It condenses a year’s worth of knowledge into a few hours, giving lab staff from all backgrounds a real head start. Those in leadership can become stronger advocates for their labs by better understanding their informatics needs and capabilities.”

A third course, which takes the student on a deeper journey into Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS), is in production and slated for release in 2019.

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