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LOINC, a universal standard for identifying laboratory observations: a 5-year update.
The Logical Observation Identifier Names and Codes (LOINC) database provides a universal code system for reporting laboratory and other clinical observations. Its purpose is to identify observations in electronic messages such as Health Level Seven (HL7) observation messages, so that when hospitals, health maintenance organizations, pharmaceutical manufacturers, researchers, and public health departments receive such messages from multiple sources, they can automatically file the results in the right slots of their medical records, research, and/or public health systems. For each observation, the database includes a code (of which 25 000 are laboratory test observations), a long formal name, a "short" 30-character name, and synonyms. The database comes with a mapping program called Regenstrief LOINC Mapping Assistant (RELMA(TM)) to assist the mapping of local test codes to LOINC codes and to facilitate browsing of the LOINC results. Both LOINC and RELMA are available at no cost from http://www.regenstrief.org/loinc/. The LOINC medical database carries records for >30 000 different observations. LOINC codes are being used by large reference laboratories and federal agencies, e.g., the CDC and the Department of Veterans Affairs, and are part of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) attachment proposal. Internationally, they have been adopted in Switzerland, Hong Kong, Australia, and Canada, and by the German national standards organization, the Deutsches Instituts für Normung. Laboratories should include LOINC codes in their outbound HL7 messages so that clinical and research clients can easily integrate these results into their clinical and research repositories. Laboratories should also encourage instrument vendors to deliver LOINC codes in their instrument outputs and demand LOINC codes in HL7 messages they get from reference laboratories to avoid the need to lump so many referral tests under the "send out lab" code.