Electronic Health Records

Adoption & Implementation News

Unified EHR Interoperability Standards Advised

By Vera Gruessner

- The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) released the 2015 Interoperability Standards Advisory earlier this year and opened up the public comment period until Friday, May 1, 2015 at 5:00 pm ET. This advisory focused on determining the best EHR interoperability standards and implementation specifications for the healthcare industry throughout the nation.


ONC hopes to develop a single public list of standards that can reach clinical interoperability of medical information. On May 1, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) announced that the organization sent a letter to Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSc, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC), with comments on the 2015 Interoperability Standards Advisory.

HIMSS hopes to work with ONC to further identify and develop effective EHR interoperability standards and implementation specifications. Currently, HIMSS commented in the letter its support for a variety of the standards that would push forward health IT interoperability on a nationwide scale. The organization also supports ONC’s outline in the Interoperability Roadmap of publishing updated EHR interoperability standards on a yearly basis.

HIMSS also commented on the importance of developing a united set of best available EHR interoperability standards that would bring about data aggregation and best practices. This set of standards would lead to improved quality of care and patient health outcomes, HIMSS representatives stated in the letter.

“Through the use of EHRs, clinical documentation not only serves to record individual patient experiences but, if the data are collected and reported in a standardized fashion, they can also be aggregated to discern best practices in clinical care which will ultimately lead to improved care and outcomes,” the HIMSS letter states. “The ONC 2015 Interoperability Standards Advisory should represent a cohesive set of standards and terminologies that, when used together, will enable the ability to share and compare quality data.”

Some vital areas that would benefit from better analysis of this data are clinical research, quality audits, and clinical care. HIMSS also asks ONC to include a column for emerging standards to act as supplement to the already existing EHR interoperability standards as well as a column for value sets.

HIMSS recommended some key features that should be incorporated in the EHR interoperability standards and implementation specifications. Additionally, ONC’s 2015 Interoperability Standards Advisory lacked privacy and security guidelines needed for effective healthcare data exchange that protects patient information. HIMSS offered a series of privacy and security standards that ONC can include in its final advisory. These include audit log, authentication, and risk assessment among others. HIMSS worked with other stakeholders to develop these security standards and hopes ONC will include the information once it releases the finalized document.

In general, HIMSS and ONC are dedicated to expanding health information exchange across the country in order to ensure better quality of care and reduced healthcare costs.



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