Clinical laboratory tests have no value if clinicians cannot quickly order and obtain the results they need. We found that efforts to obtain even the most commonly ordered tests are often derailed by excessively complex nomenclature. Ordering the right laboratory tests is critical to diagnosis and treatment, but existing mechanisms for entering lab orders actively interfere with physicians’ efforts to provide good clinical care. Rather than simplifying lab orders, the advent of computerized physician order entry (CPOE) systems—generally programmed by non-clinicians—has introduced new and vexing practical problems.
Medical laboratories have filled their test menus, whether paper or electronic, with bewildering nomenclature and abbreviations and have failed to appreciate the dangers of assigning perilously similar names to different tests. The efficient and efficacious patient care demanded by the quality care initiative requires progress beyond traditional solutions, such as convening naming conventions, to the development of innovative software with intelligent, real-time, clinically driven search functions that will allow these programs to help rather than hinder physicians.