I am actively involved in reviewing and advising my institution on laboratory observation presented in the EMR from several laboratories including my own. We’ve attempted to use LOINC to expedite mapping of external laboratory observations to each other as well as to our own to ensure that observations presented on the same row of a spreadsheet-like view of results are comparable in terms of methodology and units of measure. I’ve come to realize that I can have little confidence that units of measure are comparable even if the same LOINC code is accurately assigned by each reporting lab.
Considering the aims stated in the introduction of the LOINC users guide and the need to match units of measure in mapping test observations given all other characteristics being equal I am surprised at the frequency of LOINC entries that do not include units of measure even when UNITSREQUIRED field is entered as ‘Y’.
Where do I go or who may I speak with to try to understand what is intended? What is the intent of LOINC in light of this observation?
The UNITSREQUIRED field is defined in the LOINC Users’ Guide as “Y/N field that indicates that units are required when this LOINC is included as an OBX segment in a HIPPA attachment. Since the field was added to the LOINC database, there has not been much activity from the attachment folks and I believe that at the present time we are not populating the field for new terms.
We recommend that you disregard the UNITSREQUIRED field.