Once clinical laboratories identify dangerous infections, it’s crucial for the correct information to get to health departments quickly and in a format that allows them to recognize disease outbreaks.

Electronic Laboratory Reporting (ELR) is the automated transmission of laboratory-related data from commercial, public health, hospital, and other labs to state and local public health departments through interfacing with an electronic health records (EHR) system or a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS).  ELR helps identify reportable conditions determined by confirmatory testing and supports case reporting at the state or local level. ELR is used by laboratory providers to help them meet state reportable diseases laws mandating that providers report cases of specified diseases to the health department.[i]

ELR supports overall public health surveillance by helping improve the timeliness and accuracy of case reporting and confirmation to state and local health departments. It also supports national public health surveillance by improving the timeliness and accuracy of notifiable disease data voluntarily shared by states with CDC.  Approximately 10,400 labs send reportable data to health agencies

“Infectious disease outbreaks will always be with us—and rapid recognition of an outbreak saves lives,” says CDC director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “Thanks to electronic laboratory reporting (ELR), we’re detecting outbreaks faster than ever. Unfortunately, only a quarter of the 10,000 labs across the country use ELR. We must keep expanding use of ELR to help CDC and our partners save lives and reduce healthcare costs.”

“Electronic laboratory reporting can give health officials better, more timely and complete information on emerging infections and outbreaks than they have ever received before,” says Robert Pinner, MD, associate director for surveillance, programs and informatics in CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases. “Implementing these systems is a complex task that requires substantial investment, but ELR will provide health departments the tools they need to quickly identify and respond to disease threats and monitor disease trends now and in the future.”[ii]

The advances in ELR implementation have been accomplished through funding from the Prevention and Public Health Fund of the Affordable Care Act, distributed through CDC’s Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC) cooperative agreement.

Speeding the nation’s response to infectious disease outbreaks is part of the CDC’s ongoing 24/7 work to connect state and local health departments across the U.S., recognizing disease patterns and making state responses to health problems more effective.


[i] Electronic Laboratory Reporting (ELR).  National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System (NNDSS).  CDC. May 2015
[ii] Infection Control Today (ICT). Better, Faster Lab Reports Help States’ Outbreak Response. Sept.2013


About The Author

Irwin is Quality Advisor for COLA Resources, Inc (CRI®). where he provides a wide range of technical assistance to laboratories across the country. He previously held the position of Executive Director at Community Response, a community-based organization that provides HIV/AIDS support services in metropolitan Chicago. Prior to that position he was the Laboratory Manager of Crittenden Memorial Hospital, West Memphis, AR. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Brooklyn College, a Medical Technology degree from Good Samaritan School of Medical Technology, a Master of Science degree from Colorado State University, and a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Memphis.