News | January 24, 2008

HHS Secretary Recognizes First Set of Interoperability Standards

January 25, 2008 - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Mike Leavitt this week 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 U.S. nationwide health information network 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 assigned to the panel by the American Heath Information Community (AHIC), were accepted by Leavitt in December 2006 as interoperability standards in the following 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)

- Consumer Empowerment (e.g., giving patients the ability to manage and control access to their registration and medication histories)

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.

“Recognition of the HITSP interoperability specifications is an important milestone,” Dr. Halamka said. “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 guidelines supplied by AHIC, including:

- 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 Jan. 22, AHIC unanimously recommended the 2007 work to 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, healthcare 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.

For more information: www.hitsp.org

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