ONC's Interoperability Experience Task Force: 4 steps to bolster health information exchange

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT advisory group, IXTF, outlined suggestions spanning government policy, technology, and public-private collaborations to improve health data sharing. 
By Jack McCarthy
03:13 PM
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ONC Interoperability IXTF

Source: Matthew Crisp/Flickr

The Interoperability Experience Task Force recommended four tactics for enhancing the practice of health information exchange to national coordinator Karen DeSalvo, MD. 

Created to advise the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, the IXTF suggested actions span policy, technical, and public-private approaches to improve the interoperability experience for providers and patients.

Here are IXTF’s recommendations:

1. Enable providers to effectively use health data. IXTF recommended that ONC stand up two new joint task forces, one to concentrate on reconciling and reducing the burden of importing clinical data, and the other to address IT systems design, usability and testing. ONC should also sponsor develop challenges to fuel user-centered design elements and create a national repository to test data that developers and technology vendors can tap to evaluate user interfaces in a standardized way.

2. Make it cost-effective for providers to exchange health data. IXTF recommended that ONC study total cost of ownership for EHRs as well the cost of patient-mediated exchange, outline best practices for including patient-generated health data in clinical decision-making, and work with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation to test Open APIs to determine whether to incent their use and what role they plan in IT systems other than EHRs.

3. Advance semantic and syntactic interoperability. This begins with enabling hospital and tech vendors to encode data and, as such, a new task force should home in on making non-clinical and unstructured information more valuable; IXTF cited behavioral data and social determinants of health as prime examples.

4. Monitor existing public-private collaborations. IXTF recommended that ONC engage efforts of Health Level 7 to optimize the CCDA (Consolidated-Clinical Document Architecture) standard, renew work to improve other codesets and terminologies, such as LOINC, collaborate with federal partners such as the National Quality Forum and Veterans Affairs on usability standards and quality measures.

IXTF explained in its letter to DeSalvo that these recommendations come from its own research and testimony by experts and industry professionals during a hearing in May 2016.  

Clarification: ONC originally posted the IXTF letter to DeSalvo on its website for a short time then removed it because the Task Force decided more work is needed to focus the recommendations. A spokesperson said the task force chairs delayed the recommendations and took the materials down. So the recommendations could change. We’ll report those as well if changes happen.

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