Regenstrief Team Creates Codes to Identify Coronavirus Lab Tests

Feb. 5, 2020

Doing its part to contain the spread of the 2019 novel Coronavirus, the Indianapolis-based Regenstrief Institute is working on creating a series of codes to identify the lab tests used to screen patients for the virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the virus a global public health emergency. According to the most recent news media reports, the total number of cases in the U.S. has risen to 12, and the official death toll from the virus stands at nearly 500 people, with nearly 24,000 others infected.

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. According to officials of the organization, “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, officials noted.

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, officials at Regenstrief explained.

“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., 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.”

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