The NAHLN is part of a national strategy to coordinate the Nation's Federal, State, and University laboratory resources to allow authorities to better respond to any type of animal health emergency, including bioterrorist events, newly emerging diseases, and foreign animal disease (FAD) agents that threaten the Nation's food supply and public health. The NAHLN concept includes areas such as: laboratory capability and capacity; standardized and validated methods development and distribution; equipment and facilities enhancements; personnel training; reagent development and distribution; and electronic communication, data transfer and collaboration, with an overall goal of improving disease surveillance and response capabilities locally, regionally and nationally.
A primary component of the NAHLN is the development of a central data repository of laboratory test results for priority agents identified by the NAHLN Steering Committee. This repository is a key component of the NAHLN Information Technology Solution. Data exchanged with the NAHLN IT Solution is based on the Health Level 7 (HL7) international electronic messaging standard and nationally recognized reference terminologies including, but not limited to, the Laboratory Logical Observation Identifier Name Codes (LOINC©) and the Systematized Nomenclature for Medicine and Veterinary Medicine (SNOMED). The adoption of these standards among all laboratories, agencies, and groups that participate in the NAHLN will improve their capability to share information rapidly and efficiently, and provide individual laboratories with the ability to share data directly with one another if desired.
A proof of concept for the NAHLN IT Solution was released in March 2004 to 5 pilot laboratories. The software allowed the laboratories to send laboratory results data for two diseases to the NAHLN repository, using an HL7 message structure and SNOMED and LOINC© data standards.