Pathology – electronic ordering of tests

Pathology tests generally involve the following steps:

  • Clinician orders* test(s). 
  • The order is received by a pathology service provider
  • Specimen is collected
  • The pathology service provider tests the specimen
  • Test result is returned to the relevant clinician(s)

* Some say “order”, others use “request”, and “referral” is also used. For the sake of consistency, this article uses “order”. 

The communication of the pathology order and the results can be done using a variety of methods: paper, fax, phone, and digital transmission. The method, or methods, used depend on a variety of conditions: Medicare requirements, privacy controls, available technology, and patient/provider preferences.

Due to the benefits, and improvements in technology, digital systems are becoming the preferred choice.

Electronic ordering

Electronic ordering of pathology (also referred to as eOrders, ePathology or eRequesting) is the process of electronically transferring the data from the ordering site to the pathology provider:

Practice's nominated
pathology laboratory
Practice's nominated...
Other pathology laboratories
Other pathology laboratories
Orders test in clinical
software as per usual
GP requests test in clinic...
1. Order barcode scanned
    test details retrieved.
2. Electronic request details verified
    against paper form.
3. Results provided electronically
    to practice.
1. Request barcode scanned &...
1. Order details transcribed 
    manually from paper form.
2. Results provided via variable
    methods depending on provider. 
1. Request details transcribed...
Print out or email 
order form to patient
Print out or email...
Electronic copy of order automatically 
shared with nominated pathology provider
Electronic copy of requ...
EITHER: Patient gets tested at nominated lab or another one
EITHER: Patient gets...
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In the Australian primary care setting, electronic ordering is currently constrained, because Medicare pathology providers still require an accompanying pathology order form (digital or hardcopy), even if electronic ordering was used. Despite this, electronic ordering has significant benefits to both patients and healthcare providers:

Clinical benefits

  • Reduces the risk of transcription errors.
  • Increases the amount of useful clinical and patient history information to aid diagnosis by pathologist.
  • Test results are available on My Health Record for all clinicians involved to access. 

Workflow benefits

  • Improved processing time.
  • Reduction in unnecessary repeats or delay of investigations due to missing or incorrect data.
  • Reduction in calls to practices from patients for copies of results.
  • Improved waiting room throughput for practices with co-located pathology sites.
  • Reduction in duplication of tests by different healthcare providers. 
  • *Time saving for practice - track and receive results in real-time reducing the need for staff to follow up.
  • *Reduce risk - track request, see when specimen has reached lab and if patient has had specimen collected.
  • *Supports easier telehealth consultations with automated emailing of test orders to patients.

* Might vary depending on functionality available within the specific e-ordering platform and some variation within different clinical software.


How do you set up electronic ordering?

Contact your pathology provider to arrange set up.

Not all pathology providers offer electronic ordering functionality. These pathology providers currently offer electronic ordering capability with the specified clinical software. 

  Electronic ordering of pathology requests­­ Compatible software With additional telehealth email functionality
Best Practice Medical Director Medtech 32 Zedmed
Australian Clinical Labs Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes (MD only)
Infinity Pathology Yes Yes Yes No No No
Melbourne Pathology Service Yes Yes Yes No No No
Sonic Healthcare Yes Yes Yes No No No