Background. One important benefit of electronic health information is the improved interface between infectious diseases practice and public health. Electronic communicable disease reporting (CDR), given its legal mandate and clear public health importance, is a significant early step in the sifting and pooling of health data for purposes beyond patient care and billing. Over the next 5-10 years, almost all CDR will move to the internet. Methods. This paper reviews the components of electronic laboratory reporting (ELR), including sifting through data in a laboratory information management system for reportable results, controlled "vocabularies" (e.g., LOINC, Logical Observation Identifiers Names and Codes [Regenstrief Institute], and SNOMED, Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine [College of American Pathologists]), the "syntax" of an electronic message (e.g., health level 7 [HL7]), the implications of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act for ELR, and the obstacles to and potential benefits of ELR. Results. There are several ways that infectious diseases physicians, infection control professionals, and microbiology laboratorians will participate in electronic CDR, including web-based case reporting and ELR, the direct, automated messaging of communicable disease reports from clinical lab information management systems to the appropriate public health jurisdiction's information system. Conclusions. ELR has the potential to make a large impact on the timeliness and the completeness of communicable disease reporting, but it does not replace the clinician's responsibility to submit a case report with important demographic and epidemiologic information.