Q&A: Charles Jaffe, MD, CEO of HL7

Charles Jaffe, MD

HL7 – not just for IT anymore. That thinking is the catalyst behind a triptych of recent moves designed to open the standards process to more health professionals, notably caregivers.

Ideally, pulling in a new group of professionals will open the feedback loop, particularly to those concerned with usability and workflow, but by no means limited to that. According to Charles Jaffe, MD, HL7 CEO, tapping into their minds and, indeed, day-to-day work experiences will also yield specialist knowledge that bolsters decision support.

Jaffe discusses those initiatives, positive initial reactions, and what the future holds for HL7. Hint: Genomics, and mobile health.

Q: I’ll start by asking about HL7 recently opening up some of your intellectual property to the caregiver community…

A: We are going to make immediately available, at a nominal charge, a caregiver membership for health professionals – including physicians, nurses, therapists and pharmacists. This is intended to broaden the base of HL7 and to increase domain expertise. Hopefully, a small percentage of them will actually become involved in the development of standards. We expect contributions to usability, workflow, so on and so forth.

Q: So what’s the end-goal of this broadening?

A: It certainly is in our interest to bring in a new group of members. We believe that their interest stems from their concern about usability, workflow, and domain content. A simple example is that of a pediatrician, needing an electronic health record that more accurately reflects the specific needs for caring for children. So would the allergist and immunologist, because there are lists of things that glibly are referred to as allergy, which really fall into the category of ‘I think I don't like this medicine.’ The allergy community is dismayed that they have so little to say in the development of this important component of the EHR.

Q: Any other communities with a similar sentiment?

A: This lack of precision leads to the publication of articles that conclude that ‘EMRs are not effective.’ So if electronic medical records are simply a substitute for paper, then there’s probably little benefit, other than you can read it. But if the definition of electronic medical record embraces decision-support, I would expect to see demonstration of the clear benefits of electronic medical records. Decision support would truly enable the clinician to provide care that is both higher in quality and lower in cost.

Q: You’re talking about decision support based on a variety of specialties?

A: If we were to have allergists and immunologists participate in the process, we would help improve the content, the workflow, the business rules for an electronic medical record. This is equally true for other diseases, other specialists, other verticals, in which caregivers are able to contribute and improve disease management.