HIMSS calls for better, more timely health IT standards

By Bernie Monegain
10:11 AM
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In testimony Sept. 30 before a congressional committee, Joyce Sensmeier, vice president, informatics for HIMSS, called for more streamlined and timely health information technology standards – and warned that without them the government risks creating marketplace confusion.

Sensmeier spoke before the The House Committee on Science and Technology, Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation, at a hearing called "Standards for Health IT: Meaningful Use and Beyond."

Sensmeier said HIMSS had three concerns:

  • Data transport and basic security are focus areas where selected standards are missing, yet necessary for achieving interoperability
  • The selection of multiple standards for the same criterion, such as selection of two clinical summary content standards – CCR and CCD
  • The timing of identifying and publishing the selected standards in subsequent rules, which is critical to ensure that the industry can appropriately incorporate the standards into the product development and implementation cycle.

"Until the recommended transport standards are identified, EHR vendors will be forced to support all available transport methods or risk developing software that may not meet future interoperability needs," Sensmeier told the panel. "This lack of guidance creates marketplace confusion and wastes existing resources, ultimately delaying progress."

On the topic of creating multiple standards where one would do – such as CCR and CCD (continuity of care record and continuity of care document), she said, when there are two or more standards, "vendors and providers have to choose to support one standard, or instead, support both, which is very costly, resource intensive, and minimizes interoperability capabilities across organizations."

Sensmeier also called for more timely release of meaningful use requirements for future stages.

"To ensure optimal software development, testing, and safe implementation by providers, the final rules for meaningful use and certification criteria should be available 18 months before the next stage of meaningful use commences," she said.

During her decade at HIMSS, Sensmeier has worked on initiatives focused on harmonization and adoption of health IT standards. She led the development of Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise, or IHE, with co-sponsor the Radiological Society of North America. IHE is a global initiative that drives the adoption of health IT standards. She also led HIMSS involvement with the Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel (HITSP), a federal standards harmonization effort, while collaborating with another organization to form the Alliance of Nursing Informatics, an affiliation of 27 distinct nursing informatics organizations that she chairs.

Also testifying at the hearing were:

David Blumenthal, MD, national coordinator for healthcare information technology;
Dick Gibson, MD, president, Oregon Health Network;
Deven McGraw, director of the Health Privacy Project, Center for Democracy and Technology; and
Kathleen M. Roberts, Associate Director for Federal and Industrial Relations, Information Technology Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology;

Their testimony is posted on the subcommittee website.