ONC to help work on EHR harmony

By Bernie Monegain
04:58 PM
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The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology announced Sunday at HIMSS11 the launch of an industry project to consolidate and harmonize required health information exchange specifications that support meaningful use of electronic health record systems.

The project, called the “HL7/IHE Health Story Implementation Guide Consolidation Project,” is a collaboration of Health Level Seven (HL7) International, Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) and the Health Story Project. 

[See also: Standards group to bolster interoperability worldwide.]

Working through the HL7 standards development organization, volunteers will consolidate exchange standards for eight common types of clinical documents along with the HL7 Continuity of Care Document (CCD) standard into one comprehensive implementation package that establishes a foundation for health information exchange. 

Through the consolidation and harmonization effort, the project will address minor areas of ambiguity within the specific Standards Final Rule requirement to implement HL7 Clinical Document Architecture (CDA) Release 2, Continuity of Care Document according to HITSP C32.   

ONC’s Office of Standards and Interoperability (S&I) will host the volunteer effort within its S&I Framework and facilitate the project through HL7 and IHE with support of its contractors. 

"This is the perfect opportunity to leverage the S&I Framework to convene stakeholders that are engaged in the standards harmonization process," said Doug Fridsma, MD, director of the Office of S&I. "This important initiative will help the country move one step closer to achieving simple, standards-based nationwide interoperability."

In addition to securing support from the ONC S&I Framework, HL7, the Health Story Project and IHE, a number of EHR, clinical document management, infrastructure, middleware and natural language processing vendors will contribute volunteers. 

“We took a leap of faith three years ago in taking the lead to develop exchange standards for common types of clinical documents based on HL7 CDA,” said Liora Alschuler, project coordinator, co-chair of the HL7 Structured Documents Work Group and a co-founder of the Health Story Project, which is aimed at integration of the full patient story within EHR systems.  “We are thrilled that our work will prove valuable in addressing the call for key clinical information to be exchanged among providers and made available from providers to patients.”  

The project team aims to publish the consolidated package of standards in May 2011. 

“We are able to move quickly, in part, due to our common desire to make the standards, profiles and implementation guides available to support national meaningful use requirements,” said Joyce Sensmeier, RN, president, IHE USA. “This effort is a natural extension of the ongoing collaboration between IHE and HL7 to drive the adoption of standards-based electronic health record systems in support of optimal clinical care.”  

[See also: Interoperability is king at IHE Connectathon.]

“With this project we can make it easier for vendors and providers to adopt the required standards to support health information exchange,” said Charles Jaffe, MD, chief executive officer, HL7 International. “We are pleased that through HL7 we can offer a transparent and open process for this standards harmonization work.”

For more information, see the project Wiki site.