Comparing Ethnicity-Specific Reference Intervals for Clinical Laboratory Tests from EHR Data

Nadav Rappoport, Hyojung Paik, Boris Oskotsky, Ruth Tor, Elad Ziv, Noah Zaitlen, Atul J. Butte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Background: The results of clinical laboratory tests are an essential component of medical decision-making. To guide interpretation, test results are returned with reference intervals defined by the range in which the central 95% of values occur in healthy individuals. Clinical laboratories often set their own reference intervals to accommodate variation in local population and instrumentation. For some tests, reference intervals change as a function of sex, age, and self-identified race and ethnicity. Methods: In this work, we develop a novel approach, which leverages electronic health record data, to identify healthy individuals and tests for differences in laboratory test values between populations. Results: We found that the distributions of >50% of laboratory tests with currently fixed reference intervals differ among self-identified racial and ethnic groups (SIREs) in healthy individuals. Conclusions: Our results confirm the known SIRE-specific differences in creatinine and suggest that more research needs to be done to determine the clinical implications of using one-size-fits-all reference intervals for other tests with SIRE-specific distributions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366-377
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Applied Laboratory Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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