Coronavirus surveillance: Regenstrief team creating unique codes for disease tracking

The following was originally posted on the website

The Regenstrief team is creating a series of codes to identify the lab tests used to screen patients for the virus. The codes are part of a terminology system, created and maintained at Regenstrief, that is used around the world to identify laboratory and other health observations. The new codes will make it easier to track cases of the 2019 novel Coronavirus in the United States and across the globe. With more complete tracking, health leaders can study the virus and create strategies to address and contain the outbreak.

The team also created codes during the Zika and SARS outbreaks, among others.

“With novel viruses that appear to be easily transmittable, such as the coronavirus, it is vitally important that all identified cases be reported quickly for public health tracking,” said Regenstrief Research Scientist Theresa Cullen, M.D., M.S., a global health expert who, through her work at Regenstrief, assists with leading efforts to create and administer the global system that tracks results. “These codes will facilitate the identification of cases, not just from system to system, but from health department to health department and even country to country.”

The coronavirus was first identified in China. Thousands of people have gotten sick, and illnesses are being reported in a growing number of other countries including the United States.

The codes to identify 2019 Novel Coronavirus laboratory testing are part of a universal coding system called Logical Observation Identifiers Names and Codes (LOINC®), which was created at Regenstrief. The international system identifies health measurements, observations and documents. Health systems often have their own format for recording when someone is tested for or diagnosed with a virus or infection, which makes sharing and tracking information between systems difficult. LOINC uses standard terms, allowing data to be collected and facilitating interoperability. This is especially important when outbreaks of diseases occur.

About Regenstrief Institute

Founded in 1969 in Indianapolis, the Regenstrief Institute is a local, national and global leader dedicated to a world where better information empowers people to end disease and realize true health. A key research partner to Indiana University, Regenstrief and its researchers are responsible for a growing number of major healthcare innovations and studies. Examples range from the development of global health information technology standards that enable the use and interoperability of electronic health records to improving patient-physician communications, to creating models of care that inform practice and improve the lives of patients around the globe.

Regenstrief Institute is celebrating 50 years of healthcare innovation. Sam Regenstrief, a successful entrepreneur from Connersville, Indiana, founded the institute with the goal of making healthcare more efficient and accessible for everyone. His vision continues to guide the institute’s research mission.

About LOINC®

LOINC was created in 1994 at Regenstrief Institute in an effort to facilitate interoperability in healthcare. There was a growing trend to send clinical data electronically between healthcare entities, a practice that is integral today. Today, the LOINC coding system contains more than 92,000 terms for everything from a serum alpha 1 antitrypsin level to a zygomatic arch x-ray report. For each concept, LOINC covers many other rich details, such as synonyms, units of measure, and carefully crafted descriptions.

More about Theresa Cullen, M.D., M.S.

Theresa Cullen M.D., M.S., is the associate director of the Global Health Informatics program and a research scientist at Regenstrief Institute. She also is the interim director of strategic planning and communications for LOINC. In addition to those roles, she is an associate professor of clinical family medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine.