ESSENCE Laboratory Categories Can Help Save Time


ESSENCE categories for laboratory tests have the potential to significantly reduce processing time. Public health professionals can use these categories to quickly find tests for a specific pathogen, chemical, or other area of interest. Level 1 categories are general and branch into more refined Level 2 categories.

Lab technician documenting information about a sample

Find tests related to pathogens or chemicals

The NSSP team has been working with subject experts at CDC to sort laboratory tests into categories, which is like sorting emergency department data into keyword syndromes. We're pleased to announce that these categories are now available for use in ESSENCE and have the potential to significantly reduce processing time. Use these categories to quickly find laboratory tests for a specific pathogen, chemical, or other area of interest.

For this initial (beta) version of the lookup table, we identified all 1,398 unique laboratory test result codes within ESSENCE laboratory A data. To sort these test result codes into query-ready categories, we created a Level 1 general category (drug test, respiratory disease test, etc.) that branches into a more refined Level 2 category (opioid test, influenza test, etc.).

Level 1 categories

We created 14 Level 1 categories and 177 Level 2 categories. Our Level 1 categories include the following:

  • Antibiotic and Other Antimicrobial Susceptibility
  • Blood Testing (Lead levels, parasites)
  • Cancer Screening
  • Drug Testing
  • Gastrointestinal Infection
  • Hepatitis
  • Infectious Disease
  • Microbial Identification Testing
  • Respiratory Disease
  • Sexually Transmitted Disease/Infections
  • Vector-Borne Diseases

Level 2 categories

Examples of the Level 2 categories, which are too extensive to list here, range from Antibiotic Susceptibility for Azithromycin, penicillin, or Tetracycline to Drug Testing: Opioid and Respiratory Disease: Pneumonia. Depending on the health jurisdiction's medical laboratory ordering practices, not all test categories will be present for all states. For example, if doctors in a northern health jurisdiction do not order tick bite tests, the results for tick bite tests will not show up for that state.

Each test result will belong to only one Level 1 and to only one Level 2 category. Conversely, each laboratory specimen could have multiple categories assigned depending on how many specimen tests were ordered. Put differently, you can select more than one category without the risk of counting the test result twice.

You can check out these test result categories for queries in the Laboratory by Result table in ESSENCE. We thank our partnering subject experts across CDC for their review of these categories. We encourage you to provide feedback or ask questions about this version by emailing