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National Science Foundation Tackles Health IT Interoperability

The National Science Foundation recently issued an RFI seeking new approaches for improving health IT interoperability.

The National Science Foundation is looking to improve health IT interoperability between medical devices.

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- The National Science Foundation has released a request for information (RFI) soliciting input from industry stakeholders including academic and non-governmental organizations about new approaches to improve health IT interoperability.

In a recent posting to the Federal Register, the National Science Foundation’s Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) National Coordination Office posed several questions to stakeholders about the industry’s vision for interoperability.

Specifically, the agency is looking for information on ways to improve interoperability between medical devices.

“There is ongoing recognition that medical device interoperability is an issue and has a documented impact on patient care and safety,” wrote the agency in its RFI.

“The goal of this effort is to determine whether a vision of sustained interoperability in the hospital and into the community is feasible and, if so, what it will take to realize it,” Representatives from the National Science Foundation continued.

The agency is also looking for information about how users can leverage existing health IT and processes to achieve this vision.

Stakeholders interested in submitting feedback are invited to outline their vision for addressing interoperability barriers between medical devices, data, and platforms. Additionally, stakeholders should identify relevant parties who may make contributions to potential interoperability solutions.

Responses should include descriptions of the potential challenges that may stand in the way of improving interoperability, as well as recommendations about how these challenges can be addressed. Finally, the National Science Foundation requested stakeholders provide an explanation of why their proposed federal vision for health IT interoperability is a viable option.

The National Science Foundation outlined a future vision for interoperability between medical devices that ensures medical device additions and changes are automatically recorded with no deficit in patient safety, loss in data fidelity, or data security as patients move across the care continuum.

“If a piece of equipment breaks, it can be switched seamlessly with a device from another vendor,” wrote the agency. “Data and settings from patient medical devices, such as insulin pumps, are identified, integrated, and time synchronized, and select data are included in the electronic health record.”

As part of this future vision for health IT interoperability, the agency stated medical devices should function in a closed loop, autonomous manner when providers are not available or compromised by competing demands.

“Data will flow through changes in equipment that occur in moves from the emergency room, to the operating room, to the intensive care unit, to a rehabilitation facility, and finally to the home,” wrote the National Science Foundation. “This will allow for data and metadata to flow even as changes in equipment are mapped to individual patient needs and environment.”

Each change in medical device configuration should be recorded in supervisory EHR systems and in each medical devices metadata, the agency recommended.

“The resulting patient record from these systems will include device data, metadata, and care documentation,” wrote the federal agency. “These patient records can be stored and analyzed using medical black box recorder-equivalents to assess adverse events or examine unexpected positive outcomes.”

Improving interoperability to allow for more complete patient records and metadata will help to improve the consistency and quality of care delivery.

“The Government anticipates hosting a conference in June/July 2019 to allow for additional engagement,” explained the National Science Foundation. “The results of the conference discussion, in addition to the written responses to this RFI, will be used to determine next steps in addressing federal efforts in interoperability of data, platforms, and medical devices.”

Interested stakeholders are encouraged to submit comments by March 15, 2019.

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