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4 Initiatives Advancing Healthcare Interoperability in 2017

Healthcare organizations and health IT developers have cemented their commitment to achieving true interoperability through multi-stakeholder initiatives in 2017.

EHR Interoperability

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- Healthcare interoperability has been a priority for vendors and providers since the advent of health data exchange.

Timely access to accurate health information regardless of health IT system or location improves provider communication and patient care delivery across the care continuum.

This year, healthcare organizations, health IT developers, and federal agencies alike have made a concerted effort to push the industry closer to its goal of true interoperability.

The following are four recent initiatives and forthcoming projects aimed at transforming interoperability in healthcare in 2017.

New Center for Medical Interoperability opens in Nashville

READ MORE: Interoperability Under MACRA Must Provide Standard HIE Tools

Last month, several healthcare organizations including Ascension Health, Cedars-Sinai Health System, and Hospital Corporation of America joined forces to open the new Center for Medical Interoperability headquarters in Nashville, TN.

The new facility offers researchers and developers the resources to develop software and devices meeting the latest health IT industry standards.

“The opening of the headquarters and launch of the lab are enormous steps toward addressing the difficulties that health systems share in getting medical devices and electronic health records to ‘talk’ to each other,” said Center for Medical Interoperability Board Chair Mike Schatzlein, MD.

In an increasingly data-driven healthcare environment, equipping researchers with the tools and facilities to advance accessible, open, and efficient health information exchange is imperative to achieving lofty interoperability goals.

“Enabling this type of seamless communication is crucial to improving patient safety and reducing clinician burnout,” said Schatzlein.

READ MORE: Interoperability, EHR Use Among Hottest Health IT Topics

The center maintains a vendor-neutral stance in their development of new technologies.

HL7 and HSPC collaborative set to debut first joint project in June

Health Level Seven International (HL7) and Healthcare Services Platform Consortium (HSPC) recently teamed up to develop industry standards in the name of health data exchange interoperability.

Through the agreement, HL7 and HSPC have been working to develop FHIR standards to streamline exchange between EHR systems.

Specifically, the collaboration focuses on advancing standardized representation of health data through HL7 Clinical Information Modeling Initiative (CIMI) Work Group models designed to work within FHIR profiles.

READ MORE: Interoperable EHRs Coming to More Care Facilities, CMS Says

 “HL7 has a long history of formally collaborating with healthcare industry groups such as HSPC to advance interoperability through the adoption and implementation of standards,” said HL7 Chief Executive Officer Charles Jaffe, MD, PhD.

The initiative will also launch joint projects focused on involving clinicians in the validation of clinical data representations and standards to promote coordination of care.

“We are delighted to work with HSPC to develop detailed FHIR profiles based on our CIMI models. Together we are engaging the clinical specialty communities to develop a common set of FHIR-based solutions to simplify workflows, effectively allowing clinicians to provide better patient care,” Jaffe continued.

The team’s first joint project will take place at the Clinical Information Interchange Collaborative meeting this June.

ONC challenge to improve interoperability and patient safety

ONC also has plans to advance interoperability next month with its upcoming Patient Matching Algorithm Challenge.

The patient matching innovation challenge will invite developers to design new patient identification algorithms and increase the transparency, standardization, and methods of patient matching.

 “From an interoperability perspective, the ability to complete patient matching efficiently, accurately, and at scale has long been identified as a key element of the nation’s health IT infrastructure,” wrote Director of Standards and Technology at ONC Steve Posnack, MS.

Providers receiving data from disparate systems need a way to determine which patient incoming information belongs to with maximum accuracy.

“Patient matching is almost universally needed to enable the interoperability of health data for all kinds of purposes. Patient matching also requires careful consideration with respect to its effect on patient safety and administrative costs,” Posnack said.

Top developers will have a shot at six cash prizes amounting to $75,000.

Patient matching algorithms will be evaluated based on the fewest amount of mismatched patients, or best precision, and fewest amount of missed matches, or best recall.

The major prize category will award 3 cash prizes to the teams with the highest F-score based on a combined evaluation of precision and recall.

PCHAlliance and IHE continue work on conformity testing and certification

In February, The Personal Connected Health Alliance (PCHAlliance) joined forces with the Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) initiative to develop an entirely new project aimed at improving and simplifying interoperability.

Since then, the duo has worked to improve health data exchange through conformity testing and certification.

"PCHAlliance and IHE share the same vision. That is, we believe that health information exchange is possible throughout the worldwide healthcare ecosystem and, together, we can support new innovations and create solutions to improve health outcomes, enhance understanding and help make big data possible," said PCHAlliance VP Michael Kirwan. "We are looking forward to expanding our collaboration and working closely to further extend interoperability in healthcare."

IHE Profiles and PCHAlliance Continua Design Guidelines, which are both standards-based, open specifications, function as the foundation for the joint effort to ensure data collected by providers or patients can enter EHRs without any format or code alterations.

The team’s three-pronged approach involves using IHE Profiles and Continua Design Guidelines to allow the organizations to collaborate on conformity testing and certification.

The organizations then use the resulting aligned tools and processes to offer communication, education, and interoperability demonstrations for providers, vendors, and standards bodies.

With so much planned in 2017 to promote new innovations aimed at improving interoperability, the once-distant goal of nationwide seamless data exchange is a few steps closer to becoming a reality.

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