HIMSS Calls for Bold Action to Advance Interoperability

Jack Murtha
OCTOBER 12, 2017
himss,interoperability,health and human services,trusted exchange framework,hca news

Although healthcare has yet to master information-sharing, a leading industry group is calling on the government—and just about everyone else—to help get there.

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, better known as HIMSS, released a 6-point call to action yesterday to yield greater strides toward interoperability. The 5-page document, directed to the US Department of Health and Human Services and the industry at large, stressed the need to improve, for the sake of patients, the economy, and the country.

“While we’ve made much progress, and entire careers have been spent creating the building blocks and putting them in-place, our work is not complete,” the organization wrote. “HIMSS asserts that we must achieve secure, appropriate, and ubiquitous data access and electronic exchange of health information: Now is the time for bold action.”

The manifesto hits everything from industry education to a “demand” for integration between different approaches. The rundown is as follows.

1. Demand integration between the interoperability approaches and trusted exchange frameworks for the public good

The goal? To “achieve semantic interoperability and data access” that strengthens the quality and value of care. HIMSS said people think interoperability and trusted frameworks exist in silos, despite examples of interoperability approaches leveraging DirectTrust and Carequality—with more collaborations to come. Patient- and provider-focused projects are in some cases uniting, HIMSS wrote, and the needs of each group can be met.

2. Educate the community to appropriately implement existing and emerging standards, data formats, and use cases to ensure a comprehensive integrated approach to care

To foster integration, the industry can “build upon the many mature, consensus-based standards and profiles already in place, while allowing innovation to pilot and incorporate new and emerging standards,” according to HIMSS. But people must be aware of existing standards. The government, then, should convene and education the players in the field, especially with the rise of non-traditional data sources.

Health and Human Services must also oversee the implementation of standards and how they’re used going forward, HIMSS argued. It’s all about quality, consistency, and the complexity of versioning, the group wrote. What’s more, the government should make clear show these guideposts can enhance care and outcomes. Together, these steps stand to help healthcare data move beyond the sort of wild west that exists now.

3. Ensure stakeholder participation from across the care continuum, including patients and caregivers

Executives, IT workers, and providers aren’t the only ones who need to think about data sharing. Indeed, HIMSS notes, a number of stakeholders—including patients, payers, and caregivers—must enter the conversation. That might help fill information gaps in long-term post-acute care, long-term service and support, and behavioral health, according to the organization.

4. Identify the “minimum necessary” business rules for trusted exchange to enhance care coordination

This is all about establishing a baseline for healthcare organizations to interact. HIMSS called for a lineup of business, legal, privacy, and technical protocols that will make it easier to onboard patients, enable “greater involvement across the disparate exchange solutions,” and promote better care coordination. The initiative would also satisfy the needs of entities that deal with “high-risk, complex, and costly populations.”

The Health Information Technology Advisory Committee can lead this effort, which includes the creation of a so-called “clearance” system for potential participants, according to HIMSS. Along the way, it may gather public comment. But there is little chance at this time to create an all-encompassing interoperability framework, HIMSS wrote.

5. Standardize and adopt identity management approaches

A “critical” step toward widespread and secure data integration, the creation of a framework to link patient names and records can boost consistency in this realm. HIMSS wants the industry to innovate in this area. “This lack of a solution remains one of the barriers to true interoperability,” the group wrote, noting that is has already funded a Health and Human Services position to strengthen algorithm work.

6. Improve usability for data use to support direct care and research

Making information accessible will prod providers and others to use it. Healthcare needs to ensure that data are consumed properly, enter regular workflow, drive care and research, and ultimately “limit the burden on the end-user,” according to HIMSS. In turn, the organization added, patients will achieve safety and quality outcomes.

Although HIMSS is committed to reaching these goals, it needs help from leadership on the local, regional, and national levels, it said. For more information, interested parties may contact Mari Greenberger, who heads informatics at HIMSS.

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