Panel seeks Rx for secure health data exchange

Chopra convenes group to consider data exchange standards

Health care providers and vendors face many obstacles in implementing a common set of standards for electronically exchanging patient health data nationwide, according to testimony before a federal advisory workgroup today.

The Health IT Standards Committee’s Implementation Workgroup heard from several large and small health plans, hospitals, doctors' practices and vendors. The workgroup, chaired by federal Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, is gathering information on how to set standards for secure health data exchange systems.

The committee will forward its recommendations to the Health and Human Services Department, which will consider them for upcoming regulations later this year for distributing $20 billion in Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments. The payments will go to providers who buy and "meaningfully use" certified electronic health record systems.

Some of the health plans have set up pathways to exchange data through HHS’ Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN) pilot project.

“Our greatest success may be the full implementation of care coordination via the NHIN, starting with federal partners like the Veterans Affairs Department and using the standards already recommended for meaningful use,” Andrew Wiesenthal, associate executive director of the Permanente Federation, said on behalf of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program.

However, Wiesenthal also acknowledged “frustrations” in implementing standards for data exchange, including competition for resources with projects that have a more rapid or direct clinical effect. Consistent federal, state and local support could help solve those problems, he said.

Dick Taylor, chief medical information officer for Providence Health and Services, said Providence has learned several lessons from working on data exchange for a decade.

“We have been challenged by our own workflows, by the time-limited and relatively nontechnical environment in our providers’ offices, and by the maintenance ‘tail’ inherent in custom self-designed solutions," Taylor said. "We have learned and suffered from the limitations of read-only access to systems and clinical summaries that can be viewed but not effectively integrated."

The situation improved in 2009 as the industry reached a critical plateau of standards-based data exchange, he added.

“Changing technology is easy; changing workflows is hard,” said Rich Warren, chief information officer of Allegiance Health community hospital. “Adoption is all about workflow, behavior modification and perceived value.”

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Shutterstock image: looking for code.

    How DOD embraced bug bounties -- and how your agency can, too

    Hack the Pentagon proved to Defense Department officials that outside hackers can be assets, not adversaries.

  • Shutterstock image: cyber defense.

    Why PPD-41 is evolutionary, not revolutionary

    Government cybersecurity officials say the presidential policy directive codifies cyber incident response protocols but doesn't radically change what's been in practice in recent years.

  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group