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ONC Seeks Improved Interoperability Standards Measurement

ONC’s proposed framework for interoperability measurement aims to promote consistency across health IT systems and services.

HIT Interoperability

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- ONC recognizes the need to push nationwide interoperability further to the forefront of health IT infrastructure.

The federal agency recently published a Proposed Interoperability Standards Measurement Framework to assess the healthcare industry’s progress toward implementing health IT interoperability standards and their use in measuring advancement.

ONC sees this undertaking as a way to guide the evolution of the Interoperability Standards Advisory (ISA), inform updates to the ONC Health IT Certification 3 Program, and influence stakeholder decision-making.

At present, interoperability measurements standards vary between stakeholders. The lack of consistency poses difficulties when attempting to track the progress of health IT interoperability on a national scale.

ONC points to two primary factors inhibiting health IT developers from properly measuring implemented standards:

In addition to these complicating factors, the way standards are used for health data exchange differs considerably. Health IT developers and healthcare organizations — health information exchanges (HIEs), regional health information organizations (RHIOs), etc. — are applying standards differently which poses difficulties when trying to gather consistent information across the industry.

ONC highlights four areas causing variations in information measurement standards: 

Through discussions with various stakeholders, ONC determined optimal ways to implement interoperability standards by health IT developers and end users.

“The objective to measure interoperability standards implementation of a product focuses on understanding a standard’s lifecycle, which refers to the process by which standards are developed, implemented, and then subsequently used,” stated ONC.

Health IT developers should start by reporting which health IT standards are in their development plans and the purpose of these plans.

Next, developers and networks for health data exchange should report which standards they have implemented into versions of their products not already listed in the ONC Certified Health It Product List.

Finally, ONC states health IT developers should report the number of end- users that have deployed a product version with a standard implemented.

Measuring how interoperability standards are used will entail reporting the percentage of end-users utilizing a particular standard, the volume of transactions by standard, the conformance and customization of standards after implementation.

To ensure the framework reflects the interests and priorities of healthcare providers, payers, ONC is opening the framework to public comment. 

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