LabComm stores data received from analysers in an SQL Database  and/or files in HL7 format.

The most common format to supply HL7 data is in TCP/IP sockets. However, files can be also used to store and transmit data. We use the HL7 2* standard. Hl7 files are text files with pipe (|) delimiters and can be opened with software such as Notepad or Textpad. (Word or other Word processors can be used to view the data but should not be used to edit the contents as they will change the formatting).

The laboratory can of course use both an SQL database and files to store data. Files can be useful as an archive format - so that the data is accessible in the years to come. If files are used for data storage, it is best that the file names created allow for the easy searching and indexing. This will make it easy to locate an individual sample or analyser result. One solution is to store the files by analyser, the year they were created, then by month and finally by file name. It is useful to know if the files were sent to or received from the analyser and we can include a code in the file to indicate that.

The file name typically includes the SID (sample identifier or Lab No), as this is the main method of sample identification.

The files store the data in HL7 format. The data is stored in a very compact form. The naming on the files (as they are automatically created from data from the analyser) is configurable and one solution is shown below:

We create files with names such as:

D10_RH_13009389_20150309121616_00003479.dat

D10 Analyser Name
RH R=Receive H=HL7 format
13009389 Laboratory No (SID)
20150309121616 Date and Time (ISO format) YYYYMMDDHHSS
00003479 Incremental file number
dat File extension name

These files can then be stored within directories that have a year and a month value as the file name. All the information transmitted by the analyser, including the model, serial no, the Operator ID, the date and time of the test and the analyser reference range can be captured

The file sizes are small, typically 1 to 2 Kb in size (1000 - 2000 bytes). In this era of big data you can store tens of millions of files on one hard drive - disc space for storage is not an issue.

There are considerable cost savings in storing analyser results electronically. In regulated environments laboratories may need to store the source data for 10 years or more. The costs of maintaining conventional paper archives is considerable as well as the time required to track an individual sample down.. Electronic storage offers a more convenient and cost effective way to store, archive and retrieve this data.