Health Language Blog

Three Considerations When Mapping Your Lab Catalogue

Posted on 06/03/13


Logical Observation Identifiers Names and Codes (LOINC┬«) has been named as a standard in both Stage One and Stage Two Meaningful Use.  Earlier posts have discussed the utility and importance of LOINC as a standard.  LOINC has been used sporadically by some organizations, but full use of LOINC is coming into its own. 

As with the journey of a thousand miles, taking that first step on the catalog mapping project is truly the hardest part. To make your journey a bit easier, here are three first steps to consider: 

  • Do you understand LOINC?
  • Do you understand data?
  • What are the right resources and tools to use?
1.     Understanding LOINC

Previously LOINC and Meaningful Use were discussed on this blog.  While an overall understanding of LOINC is a great place to begin, mapping your local catalog to LOINC means you must understand this robust and sophisticated terminology to a greater extent. 

The codes in LOINC have no intrinsic meaning. The name is where the fun begins! A fully specified name in LOINC of a test result or clinical observation has five or six main parts:

 So a  fully specified names looks like this:

<component/analyte>:<kind of property>:<time aspect>:<system type>:<scale>:<method>

Glucose^2H post 100 g glucose PO:MCnc:Pt:Ser/Plas:Qn 


2.     Understanding your data

Seeing the components that exist in a LOINC name means that the more you understand your data, the better you can provide more of the pieces you will need to properly map your local data. Many lab catalogs have existed for some time. There may be legacy data imported or interfaced with an order catalog. There may be one standard catalog for an organization or several disparate catalogs.  All this adds up to the potential for some dirty or unstandardized data. To get the best matches, having some of the key pieces of the parts of the LOINC name will help in mapping your data accurately and efficiently. 

Consider an analysis of your catalog. Are there glaring issues you can address?

  • Duplicates
  • Missing pieces of information
  • Organization-specific acronyms
  • And maybe just wrong information


3.     Resources and Tools

Mapping your catalog to LOINC is a journey.  Like any journey, the first step may be the hardest.  Here are some questions to consider: 

  • Do you understand the scope of your mapping project?
    • Are you mapping to achieve a standardized catalog through an enterprise or an organization?
    • Will you need to consider proprietary system identifiers?
    • Do you have the people, tools, and time to map and analyze your data?
      • Can you devote staff full time to this project to analyze and map?
      • Do you have the staff to complete the project in your timeline?
      • Do you have an efficient way to map the progress of your mapping project by item, by area, and by mapper?
      • Does your staff have the proper mix of lab domain knowledge, system knowledge, and LOINC knowledge to map in an accurate and expedient fashion?
        • Can a lab person in general chemistry map pathology items?
        • Can a data analyst understand lab data?

Mapping your local catalog to the LOINC standard has many benefits.  The standardization of your data will help in data mining, optimizing reimbursement, complying with government requirements, and decreasing duplicate test ordering.

So now, after consideration, are you ready to map your local lab catalog?

For further information:

LOINC, a universal standard for identifying laboratory observations: a 5-year update

 data normalization



Topics: Meaningful use, LOINC, Meaningful use stage 2, Meaningful use requirements, Coding Challenges, lab cataloguing

About the Author

Jay Mead