HIMSS makes suggestions for ONC’s 2015 Interoperability Standards Advisory

Since electronic health records and other health IT have become so widely relied upon throughout the health care industry, health experts have started to prioritize interoperability to allow providers to securely send their patients' health information to relevant health organizations.

To encourage the health care sector to focus on interoperability in their practices and facilities, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT released the 2015 Interoperability Standards Advisory at the beginning of the year. The organization recently opened the advisory up for public comment.

HIMSS responds to 2015 Standards Advisory 
The Standards Advisory is centered on finding the best EHR implementation specifications and interoperability standards for health professionals across the nation. The ONC is currently planning on creating one list for the public that includes standards that have the capability to help providers achieve clinical interoperability of essential medical data. 

In response to the ONC's Standards Advisory, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society announced that officials from the organization had sent a letter to Karen DeSalvo, M.D., the national coordinator for health information technology at the ONC, with comments. The HIMSS sent the letter in hopes of working closely with the ONC to determine which implementation specifications and interoperability standards are most effective. 

The HIMSS included its support for many of the ONC's standards in the letter, believing that they will play a major role in accelerating the industry's push toward enhanced interoperability across the country. However, one of the HIMSS' suggestions included the testing of new tools, such as application programming interfaces. 

"Alignment on the best available standards will enable our nation to more rapidly make advances to achieve interoperability by building upon this consensus-based foundation of standards," HIMSS officials stated in the letter. "We should continue to develop standards and encourage the testing of emerging standards and tools such as application programming interfaces and Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources to support this effort"

HIMSS lists key suggestions 
The HIMSS also noted that it is essential to create a set of the best EHR interoperability standards, uniting all of the standards that will be most impactful to bring about data aggregation and best practices. A set of standards like this one would also work to enhance care quality and patient health outcomes. 

"Through the use of EHRs, clinical documentation not only serves to record individual patient experiences but, if the data are collected and reported in a standardized fashion, they can also be aggregated to discern best practices in clinical care which will ultimately lead to improved care and outcomes," the HIMSS officials explained. "The ONC 2015 Interoperability Standards Advisory should represent a cohesive set of standards and terminologies that, when used together, will enable the ability to share and compare quality data."

A few areas of care that could benefit from analysis of data are quality audits, clinical care and clinical research. The letter also asks that the ONC develop an extra column for standards currently in the development process to act as supplement to those that already exist. The HIMSS also mentioned that a column for value sets could be useful.

In addition to new columns, the HIMSS suggested a few features that would improve the current EHR implementation specifications and interoperability standards. The 2015 Interoperability Standards Advisory also failed to include essential security and privacy guidelines. The HIMSS worked with stakeholders to develop and list a few standards that the ONC could incorporate into the final advisory, such as risk assessment procedures and audit log. 

The ONC and HIMSS have always been committed to assisting the health care industry in expanding health information exchange with underlying goals of enhancing quality of care for patients and reducing care costs for providers.