There is an increasing tendency towards the aggregation of pathology data in the Australian health sector, however the usefulness of this data is limited due the wide variability in test requesting and reporting practice. Variability is demonstrated in many components e.g. test names, units, reporting intervals (decimal places), reference intervals and clinical comments, etc.
Variability has the potential to create confusion and misunderstanding as pathology results are viewed by a wider range of people, including requesting doctors, patients, nurses, pharmacists, dieticians and other allied health workers. Additionally pathology data is becoming more likely to be sent to databases such as practice software, national or regional registries and personal health records. In these settings, data from several laboratories may be combined into a single record and removed from, or at least separated from, the original supporting information (name, units, reference intervals etc). Standardised pathology information structures and terminologies allow improvement in recording, decision support, communication and analysis of pathology results, safeguarding the intended meaning of the information being requested or reported.