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New site to collect feedback on healthcare interoperability plan

In an act of teamwork in line with their goal of industry-wide cooperation, Karen DeSalvo, M.D., the national coordinator for health IT, and Erica Galvez, the ONC’s interoperability and exchange portfolio manager, co-authored a blog post introducing an interactive Website built to solicit public input on the ONC’s healthcare interoperability plan.

The site builds on the ONC’s 10-year interoperability plan which was issued in June. Any feedback received by September 12, 2014 will be considered in a draft to be presented to ONC advisory committees in October. After that review, ONC expects the first version of their interoperability plan to be posted for public comment in early 2015.

The ONC’s healthcare interoperability map is separated into three, six, and ten-year markers to delineate the escalating goals of the program. By year three, participating providers should able to send and receive information to improve care quality. The six-year agenda is to improve care quality while lowering costs and the ten-year goal is to build a nationwide health IT infrastructure that improves information sharing at all levels of healthcare.

A draft report from the Senate Appropriations Committee is directing the Health IT Policy Committee (HITPC) to conduct and submit a report “regarding the challenges and barriers to interoperability.” They state the assessment should be given to the Senate Committees on Appropriations and Health, Education Labor, and Pensions within a year after the draft of the 2015 appropriations bill is enacted. The HITPC’s report should explain the financial, operational and technical barriers to interoperability, according to the Senate committee’s recommendations.

A presenter at a recent mHealth conference offered some reassurance to those struggling with healthcare interoperability issues. Lixin Tao, chair of the computer science department at Pace University, said computer professionals have been dealing with digital information exchange incompatibility problems for 20 years and that the Health Level 7 protocol (HL7) can facilitate data exchange between providers. Tao did caution that the two most recent versions of HL7, versions two and three, each offer unique benefits. The most recent HL7 v2 is dated – based on a spec more than 26 years old – but it’s backwards-compatible, meaning it works with older v2 editions. HL7 v3 is more powerful and current but lacks backwards compatibility.

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