Our "Geekdoctor", John Halamka, has been hard at work with many colleagues from around the country by chairing a group to create national standards for electronic data interchanges in the health care world. Yesterday Secretary of HHS Mike Leavitt announced the first set of such standards. I am attaching the entire press release. I don't claim to understand all technical technical aspects of this, but I do know that this in an important step along the way to full interoperability of medical information systems in the United States.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Stacy Leistner
American National Standards Institute
HHS Secretary Recognizes Products of HITSP Standards Work
Washington, DC, January 24, 2008: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Mike Leavitt recognized the first set of interoperability standards developed by the Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel (HITSP). The HITSP advanced three of its “Interoperability Specifications” to help support the advancement of interoperable health records and a Nationwide Health Information Network in the United States aimed toward improved and more efficient care.
HHS Secretarial recognition of interoperability standards is referenced in an Executive Order (E.O. 13410) signed by President George W. Bush in August 2006 and promotes standards to be implemented in new and upgraded federal health systems. These standards will also become part of the certification process for electronic health records and networks.
“Safe and affordable healthcare depends upon the secure exchange of information among patients, providers, payers and government entities such as public health agencies,” explained Dr. John Halamka, HITSP chair and CIO of Harvard Medical School.
The HITSP “Interoperability Specifications” which pertain to three initial priority work areas (“Use Cases”) assigned to the Panel by the American Heath Information Community (AHIC), were accepted by Secretary Leavitt in December 2006 as interoperability standards in these areas:
§ Electronic Health Record (EHR) (e.g., the electronic delivery of lab results to providers of care),
§ Biosurveillance (e.g., data networks supporting the rapid alert to a disease outbreak), and
§ Consumer Empowerment (e.g., giving patients the ability to manage and control access to their registration and medication histories).
Each Interoperability Specification is an unambiguous “cookbook” that identifies the “named” standards and provides implementation guidance to all stakeholders exchanging the health care information specified in each Use Case.
The Secretary’s acceptance in December 2006 launched a year-long period of review and testing by healthcare providers, public health agencies, government agencies, standards developing organizations, consumers and other stakeholders. His recognition signifies the end of the testing period and the beginning of when federal agencies administering or sponsoring federal health programs will begin implementation.
“Recognition of the HITSP Interoperability Specifications is an important milestone” added Halamka. “Between the federal implications and the certification efforts of CCHIT, stakeholders will be motivated to adopt a standard way of sharing data throughout the Nationwide Health Information Network, leading to better healthcare for us all.”
During 2007, the HITSP continued its work by focusing on security and privacy constructs and a new set of Use Cases supplied by AHIC:
§ Security and Privacy constructs will help to keep patient health information secure in an electronic environment. The standards will also help to assure that this information will only be used by authorized personnel for official purposes, including electronic delivery of lab results to a clinician, medication workflow for providers and patients, quality, and consumer empowerment.
§ Emergency Responder-Electronic Health Record will track and provide on-site emergency care professionals, medical examiner/fatality managers, and public health practitioners with needed information regarding care, treatment, or investigation of emergency incident victims.
§ Consumer Access to Clinical Information will assist patients in making decisions regarding care and healthy lifestyles. Accessible information could include registration information, medication history, lab results, current and previous health conditions, allergies, summaries of healthcare encounters, and diagnoses.
§ Quality indicators will benefit providers by providing a collection of data for inpatient and ambulatory care, and will benefit clinicians by providing real-time or near-real-time feedback regarding quality indicators for specific patients.
At its meeting on January 22, 2008, AHIC unanimously recommended the 2007 work to Secretary Leavitt. If the Secretary accepts the recommendations as reported; the requisite one-year period of review and testing for the new Interoperability Specifications will begin.
Nearly 400 organizations representing consumers, health care providers, public health agencies, government agencies, standards developing organizations, and other stakeholders now participate in the HITSP and its committees. Members work together to define the necessary functional components and standards – as well as gaps in standards – which must be resolved to enable the interoperability of health care data. Public comments are considered as the Panel develops its recommendations.
About HITSP. Operating under contract to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the HITSP is administered by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in cooperation with strategic partners including the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), the Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) and Booz Allen Hamilton.
About ANSI. ANSI is a private non-profit organization whose mission is to enhance U.S. global competitiveness and the American quality of life by promoting, facilitating, and safeguarding the integrity of the voluntary standardization and conformity assessment system. Its membership is comprised of businesses, professional societies and trade associations, standards developers, government agencies, and consumer and labor organizations. The Institute currently administers five standards panels in the areas of homeland security, nanotechnology, healthcare information technology, biofuels and identity theft prevention and identity management.