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ONC on the interoperability march again

With HIMSS 2016 looming next week, ONC has rolled out yet another project in the federal health IT agency’s campaign to promote what has probably been up to now health IT’s most elusive goal: interoperability.

The new “Interoperability Proving Ground” (IPG), part of the ONC Tech Lab interoperability standards program, is an open portal on which developers of notable interoperability initiatives across the country can post descriptions of their current projects and their estimated end dates.

“No matter how big or how small, every interoperability project you add to the IPG will make a difference and enrich the IPG”s potential for the entire health IT community,” Steven Posnack, ONC’s director of the office of standards and technology, wrote in a blog post.

The platform now contains nearly three dozen projects. You can click markers on a map of the country to drill down into more details of the specific undertakings, such as, the Washington state health department”s (PMP).

That effort has a goal of using the state HIE in conjunction with National Council for Prescription Drug Programs standards to connect a health data trading partner”s EHR to the PMP.

Meanwhile, as part of a series of interoperability initiatives (some of which are expected to be announced by federal officials at HIMSS 2016 in Las Vegas), ONC also is accepting comments on its 2016 Interoperability Standards Advisory until March 21.

That advisory is intended to address the frequent refrain in the health IT community about the lack of interoperability standards.

At HIMSS 2016, Sylvia Burwell, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, who oversees ONC and CMS, is expected to comment in her opening night keynote on the critical need for more interoperability in health IT.

Some observers also expect Burwell to reveal more clues about where federal health IT policy is headed regarding the future of meaningful use, which CMS acting administrator Andy Slavitt said last month is effectively over and will be “replaced by something better.”

On the first day of the conference, Slavitt and Karen DeSalvo, M.D., national coordinator for health IT, are scheduled for two sessions to talk about all these issue and perhaps also the Medicare Access & CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA), the new national healthcare  law that establishes a framework for merit-based reimbursement.