Health IT

ONC releases draft interoperability standards

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The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has released new draft standards for how electronic health record systems should share data.

The Interoperability Standards Advisory (ISA) has been a closely watched document in the health IT community because complying with the standards will eventually be a requirement for clinicians and hospitals that want to receive payments from public providers such as Medicare and Medicaid.

Data standards will allow systems from different vendors to speak the same language when it comes to coding clinical interactions, vaccinations, health conditions, prescriptions and other information.

In a blog post announcing the draft standards, Steven Posnack, director of the Office of Standards and Technology, and Chris Muir, director of the office's Health IT Infrastructure and Innovation Division, wrote that "by providing the industry with a single, public list of the standards and implementation specifications that can be consistently used to fulfill specific clinical interoperability needs, we hope to spur more seamless and secure flow of information across the health system."

This year's ISA is more web-based and interactive and offers a closer look at ONC's thought process. The draft includes five main changes that were largely based on feedback from the public and the stakeholder groups convened to advise the government on health IT.

The ISA represents ONC's effort to transition the document to an online medium and allow stakeholders to submit comments more directly in response to specific portions of the document.

In addition, ONC has abandoned the phrase "best available" because it is too subjective and open to interpretation.

ONC built the Interoperability Proving Ground portal to connect stakeholders to projects that serve as models for following ISA-listed standards. Users can search through hundreds of interoperability projects taking place around the world and add their own.

An appendix offers a look at future areas of activity and discussions on interoperability. The requirements could eventually be extended beyond clinical care to include billing and administration, and standards for preventive health schedules might be in the offing. In addition, ONC might explore how to guarantee a chain of trust when it comes to health data that moves across the electronic health record ecosystem.

The deadline for public comments on the ISA is Oct. 24.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a former FCW staff writer.

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