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HIMSS Calls on HHS to Improve Secure Health Data Exchange

The organization seeks federal efforts to improve interoperability, standardization, and other aspects of health data exchange.

Health Data Exchange

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- HIMSS recently called on HHS to assist providers in achieving nationwide secure health data exchange through promoting improved interoperability and standardization, among other aspects of exchange.

Specifically, HIMSS requested HHS demonstrate leadership through the following actions:

First, HIMSS suggested HHS facilitate integration between the interoperability approaches and trusted exchange frameworks to improve data access, care quality, and cost effectiveness.

“A common misperception exists that these interoperability approaches and trusted frameworks operate in silos,” they wrote. “Several examples of collaboration across these efforts are currently underway and more opportunities are in the pipeline for the future.”

The healthcare society pointed to DirectTrust and Carequality as examples of interoperability initiatives currently pursuing collaborations.

“Efforts that originally focused on provider-driven exchange are exploring conversations with patient-directed exchange solutions,” they continued. “However, it is important to consider exchange from the provider’s perspective and understand that many currently have to implement a multi-pronged exchange approach to care for their patient population in a comprehensive manner.”

HIMSS also recommended HHS lead efforts to educate stakeholders on implementing existing and emerging standards, data formats, and use cases. A comprehensive, integrated approach to patient care would leverage the advantages of mature standards already in place.

“HHS and ONC should support and encourage efforts and convening opportunities for the health information and technology community, specifically Standards Development Organizations (SDOs), to provide such education,” wrote HIMSS.

HIMSS stressed the importance of implementing data standards as non-traditional data sources—including social determinants of health—become more prevalent.

In addition to educating stakeholders about implementing standards, HIMSS recommended HHS also lead standards implementation efforts themselves and ensure standards are used consistently.

“HHS should also work with community stakeholders to articulate the value proposition and outcomes related to the use of these standards in how they improve aspects of care,” wrote the healthcare society.

To increase stakeholder participation across the care continuum, HIMSS recommended including patients, payers, public health and non-traditional provider groups in interoperability approaches and trusted exchange frameworks.

“There is a tremendous need to better understand how all healthcare stakeholders can participate in these efforts, the value of the actors in these models, and identify the business and legal exchange agreements needed to further advance ubiquitous semantic interoperability,” the organization maintained.

The healthcare society also recommended identifying “minimum necessary” business rules for trusted exchange to improve care coordination and simplify the onboarding process for participants of the framework.

“There is no existing one-size-fits-all interoperability solution,” clarified the organization. “With the diversity across the ecosystem and the variety of interoperability initiatives that exist, it is not feasible at this time to put forth one ‘interoperability framework’ that could accommodate each of these unique scenarios and user needs.”

Standardizing and adopting patient matching approaches should also be a key HHS priority.

“Establishing a common framework for patient identity matching is an important element to ensure further consistency across disparate trusted exchange solutions,” wrote HIMSS. “We advocate for the community to identify, test, adopt and implement standards and their respective algorithms for matching patients to their data across and between clinical and claims data sets.”

The organization cited the ONC patient matching algorithm challenge as one successful effort offering the healthcare industry insight into the problem.

Finally, HIMSS suggested HHS improve data usability to support patient care and research.

“Improved usability would ensure that data are consumed discretely, incorporated seamlessly into workflow, help enable clinical decision-making, allow secondary use of data for research, and limit the burden on the end-user,” stated HIMSS.

HIMSS recommended improving semantic interoperability as well as syntactic health data exchange to achieve this priority.

“The inability to achieve semantic interoperability continues to be a barrier to seamless exchange and data access,” advised the healthcare society. “Often when data are shared, they are of low quality and not useful in informing the delivery of care or improving patient outcomes.” 

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