- The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) recently submitted comments to the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Program requesting further exploration of interoperability testing and other areas likely to improve health data exchange.
NITRD’s Health Information Technology Research and Development Interagency Working Group (HITRD IWG) published a request for comment on its draft federal health IT research and development strategic framework at the end of May.
The framework is designed to assist federal agencies in exchanging information regarding their health IT programs, coordinate health It research and development plans and activities, promote synergy across federal health IT investments, and outline research and development needs to policymakers.
As part of the framework, NITRD included a description of motivators, needs, and collaboration opportunities for health IT research and development as well as a grid displaying current investments in the industry.
In its response to the request for comment, AMIA offered a list of recommendations advocating for further research and development related to interoperability testing, granular health IT data standards, data portability, and modern healthcare workforce training.
In regards to drivers motivating health IT research and development, AMIA submitted the following four recommendations to improve the framework:
- Help make sense of the oncoming deluge of data – such as data from EHRs, the Internet of Things, new kinds of medical devices (including Software-as-a-Medical Device), environmental data, and genomic data – in the service of care delivery and wellness;
- Achieve widespread interoperability through “interoperability testing” of certified health IT;
- Educate and train a modern healthcare workforce with a foundation in informatics; and
- Optimize technology development by developing policy.
Additionally, AMIA highlighted a need for advancements in the following three areas:
- Development of granular data specifications – Similar to the “periodic table of elements,” we need R&D to facilitate data re-use and interoperability through granular data specifications, including metadata, to combine discrete data elements for specific use cases, such as quality measurement.
- True interoperability testing – Unlike conformance testing, interoperability testing ensures that systems cannot only send data using a specified standard, but that a system can receive numerous variations on a standard.
- Digital, computable “print all” functionality for improved data portability – The capability for EHRs and other health IT to deliver structured and unstructured data to patients will have tremendous impact on how patients manage their health and participate in research.Likewise, improved data portability will enable providers to transition from one system to another more easily, improving usability (by creating reducing vendor lock-in) and patient safety (by providing more than summary information during a system transition).
The framework will be useful in providing a comprehensive description of the current state of health IT and the areas in need of investments for all stakeholders and federal agencies.
“These kinds of interagency efforts are tremendously important,” said AMIA CEO & President Douglas B. Fridsma, MD, PhD. “Federal R&D support is necessary to help the private sector achieve the promise of a networked, connected health ecosystem. AMIA is glad to lend our members’ informatics expertise to this framework so it can guide and prioritize federal investments for years to come.”
Similarly, ONC is gearing up for a series of three public stakeholder meetings starting on July 24 to begin developing a trusted exchange framework and common agreement as outlined in the 21 Century Cures Act.
The meetings will be used to gather information on ways to achieve industry-wide standardization to improve health data exchange and interoperability.