Burlington Labs Sees Success with VHIE Connection

After VITL's conference in 2013 the president of Burlington Labs decided that the business needed to support electronic health records (EHR). The Summit helped them learn that the health care world was moving quickly in that direction. So the leadership decided that in order to serve as many of their providers as possible, Burlington Labs should connect to Vermont Health Information Exchange (VHIE), the statewide network that enables health care providers to securely send information to each other. The lab is now connected and sends test results to the VHIE, so providers who ordered the tests can receive the results directly into their EHRs, saving time and increasing the efficiency of managing patient data. 


Burlington Labs may be considered a "niche" lab because the business focus is on substance abuse treatment by providing clinical drug testing. Headquartered in Burlington, VT, they specialize in analysis of urine and oral fluids for alcohol metabolites and detectable substances. Their niche as a specialty lab has allowed them to grow quickly, with six collection centers in Vermont and expanded services in 13 states.


Health care providers that use their services include:

  • Substance abuse treatment centers.
  • Physicians providing substance abuse treatment.
  • Mental health treatment centers.

Not all of these providers are receiving data from the lab yet through an EHR. However the lab considers EHR connections as a competitive advantage for keeping and getting more accounts. Providers want a quick turn-around for test results, and the choice has been to receive results via fax or by logging into Burlington Labs' vendor portal. The VHIE offers a secure, streamlined, convenient and efficient process for sending test results directly to a provider's EHR.


According to Chief Financial Officer Mickey Wiles, Burlington Labs is sending data to three Vermont practices now, actively working on another, and has seven others with verified interest in EHR connections.


How many tests does Burlington Labs process annually? According to Mickey Wiles this question does not have a straight forward numbers answer because patient tests are ordered as a "panel" or set of tests, and the lab can run a seven to 16 panel test on one patient. A report is generated with the results of a panel test and if there are positives, the provider will want a confirmation meaning the samples will go through another set of testing. The lab is analyzing about 100,000 specimens a year, with approximately 40 percent of the tests being done in Vermont.


Connecting to the VHIE had its challenges for the Burlington Labs' vendor. The vendor stores and manages data generated by the lab, but they did not have an interface that could send data to the VHIE. Once their vendor made system upgrades, VITL was able to create a "tunnel" or interface for the VHIE connection. Mickey Wiles stated that the EHR connections are still a work in progress, but going well with VITL Project Manager Regi Wahl, who makes sure they are always on track and moving ahead.


Sensitivity to privacy and security is paramount when managing patient data, and there are particular concerns regarding mental health data that require even more consideration. As the operator of the VHIE, VITL has adopted security policies and procedures that meet all federal and state laws and rules, has a designated privacy and security officer who monitors adherence to these policies, works with contractors to ensure that only authorized users have access to the VHIE, and ensures that data on the network remains private and secure. VITL also advises hospitals, physician practices and other Vermont health care providers on privacy and security issues.


Burlington Labs has never experienced any issues regarding security and privacy with sending electronic health data, and all of the providers wanting EHR connections already use an EHR system. By the time a provider comes to the lab they understand HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliance with health records.


Substance abuse treatment relies heavily on the use of drug testing to monitor patient compliance with treatment programs. Burlington Labs is proving that their VHIE connection is giving them the technology edge they need to successfully support both patients and providers involved in addiction treatment.