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ONC's interoperability roadmap lays path for health IT

The ONC published a draft of its interoperability plan that delineates stages and targets for healthcare professionals to hit over the next decade.

Improvements in electronic prescribing, patients' electronic access to their records and clinical lab results, and electronic patient reminders are a few of the benefits of governmental intervention in healthcare -- resulting from the Affordable Care Act, the meaningful use program and other initiatives.

Other problems in the health IT world remain. One unresolved issue plaguing healthcare providers is transition of care situations where non-interoperable systems interfere with their ability to pass a patient's health record on to another provider. To avoid that scenario in the future, the ONC released a new proposed interoperability roadmap to help achieve widespread interoperability between health IT systems.

On Jan. 30, 2015, the ONC issued a draft of the Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap. The 166-page document details how ONC can realize its 10-year vision to solidify an interoperable health IT infrastructure.

The document sets the following goals for the program:

  • Establish a coordinated governance framework and process for nationwide health IT interoperability.
  • Improve technical standards and implementation guidance for sharing and using a common clinical data set.
  • Enhance incentives for sharing health information according to common technical standards.
  • Clarify privacy and security requirements that enable interoperability.

From 2015 to 2017, according to the ONC's timeline, technology developers should focus on adjusting their products to align with Consolidated Clinical Document Architecture (C-CDA) 2.0 as the standard for exchanging clinical data. During this period, developers of EHR products should also be working to have their products certified in time for the beginning of meaningful use stage 3 in 2017.

The proposed roadmap makes actionable recommendations that apply to many different healthcare players, including federal and state governments, private payers and purchasers, individuals, providers, privacy and security professionals, educators and advocacy groups. Over the next three years, these groups should work on unifying clinical data exchange methods. From 2018 through 2020, the healthcare industry should see improved population health and lower costs as a result of expanded interoperability. Finally, in the period between 2021 and 2024, the primary goal will be to achieve a nationwide learning health system that strengthens the quality, safety and efficiency of patient care.

One of the desired results of the ONC's recommendations is significant clinical benefits. Encouraging all healthcare entities to implement the C-CDA standard equally would provide them with significantly more patient health data. This is a result of the Standards and Interoperability Framework Longitudinal Coordination of Care initiative that made modifications to C-CDA to include support for long-term and post-acute care. In addition, the ONC recommends that the national standardized patient dataset include the patient's height, weight, diastolic and systolic blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, body temperature, oxygen saturation in their arterial blood and body mass index.

Sharing data is a pivotal goal in the overall federal health IT strategy. It could support initiatives around outcome-based payment models and facilitate better care coordination. ONC did suggest the possibility of financial incentives for those who make their systems more interoperable. No details are available on what those incentives might be for physicians and systems developers.

About the author:
Reda Chouffani is vice president of development at Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the healthcare industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email
 editor@searchhealthit.com or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

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