The Future of Health IT Standards and Interoperability

With 2015 now in motion, I wanted to share my perspective on health IT standards and interoperability – what’s happened in 2014 and what’s ahead in 2015. My comments here appeared aspart of a Jan. 5 article in iHealth Beat with other health IT professionals who shared their insights on health IT developments in 2014 and expected trends in 2015.

Focus on the Patient: I want to emphasize how important it is to remember the complexity of the healthcare infrastructure, one that – at its core – impacts patients and the lives of individuals. While innovation in health IT is essential, careful navigation of such new paths is mandatory to avoid any compromise of patient safety, privacy or health outcomes.

Thus, to safely and efficiently meet our goal of interoperability, we have an ongoing responsibility to evaluate and carefully manage when and how to evolve emerging standards and technologies into this infrastructure.

Most important health IT development in 2014: The publication of the draft 10-year vision of interoperability, by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, provided information on what it will take to develop and implement an interoperable health IT infrastructure. Its publication began a dialogue throughout the country on present and future opportunities to more rapidly advance interoperability.

In addition, ONC also suggested the need to build on the current foundation of interoperability, while recognizing that new technologies and standards are always being introduced.

The biggest disappointment or missed opportunity in the 2014 health IT space: Health IT is vitally important to get right.  We would like to have the full attention of ONC leadership, as noted in HIMSS comments with CHIME sent to Secretary Burwell in November 2014.

Thus, the leadership team at ONC is important, and HIMSS remains committed to continuing our collective work to advance better health through IT.

Biggest remaining barriers in 2015 to widespread adoption and meaningful use of health IT: I see two challenges to the widespread adoption and meaningful use of health IT.

  • Fragmentation of the healthcare industry: With the focus on interoperability, and acknowledgement that we are not there yet, fragmentation still exists across the industry. We need better alignment across stakeholders so that through a collaborative effort, we can solve interoperability with the best use of IT and meaningful use of electronic health records.
  • Analytics to improve health and care: Interoperability and analytics can ultimately help us determine what affects health outcomes, by enabling us to mine data across multiple standards-based systems, settings and populations to elicit evidence.

How to address these challenges:  If we use agreed-upon standards to structure and capture the data, we can more easily understand what treatments and protocols make an impact on health outcomes. This analytical process will improve the ability for individuals to make informed decisions about their health and care options.

Sharing and exploring these advancements in innovation and analytics is a major focus of the HIMSS Innovation Center. We look forward to influencing what the future will be in this evolution of innovation and technology in health IT.

What do you see ahead for interoperability and standards in health IT during 2015? Let me know your thoughts here on the HIMSS Blog.

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