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Sentara and Virginia State Laboratory Achieve Breakthrough in Newborn Blood Screening


First successful joint initiative reduces lag time for results from two weeks to 4.5 days


Every newborn in Virginia receives a blood screen for inherited disorders, which may require medical intervention. Unfortunately, the manual process for collecting, delivering and documenting newborn blood screens has remained unchanged since 1966, until now.


Sentara Healthcare and the Virginia Department of General Services’ Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS) have together achieved the first fully operational method to order blood screens and return results electronically, using the Epic-based Sentara eCare® electronic medical record (EMR). The result is quicker newborn medical interventions when days matter.


Conversations between DCLS and Virginia hospitals about updating the blood screening process have continued on-and-off since 2016. The Family Maternity Center at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and the Sentara IT team, working with DCLS, were first to deploy a fully operational system in July 2019 with remarkable results.


The current standard of care recommends that providers receive time-critical screening results no later than the 5th day of life. Virginia’s manual process averages 14 to16 days. Since launching the Sentara-DCLS collaboration, the majority of screening results are returning from DCLS to the Sentara EMR in under five days.


The new process reduces transcription errors, allows tracking of samples through the system and earlier interventions, which can avert unexpected infant deaths and improve prospects for long-term physical and cognitive development. 


Initially, the Sentara team considered using third-party software but the Sentara IT team discovered current capability within the core Epic EMR and gained rapid approval for building the new project. The existing Connect Virginia interface achieves interoperability at no additional cost. Other Sentara hospitals will phase in this new ordering process throughout 2020.