AMA initiative calls for common data model, uniting providers, health IT firms

By Mike Miliard
02:58 PM
Cerner, IBM, Intermountain, AMIA are early sign-ons to the new Integrated Health Model Initiative, which seeks to improve the way healthcare information is organized and shared.

The American Medical Association has launched the Integrated Health Model Initiative, a platform it says will help move the healthcare industry toward a common data model and pioneer a shared framework for organizing health information.

Early participants in the project include American Medical Informatics Association, Cerner, IBM, Intermountain Healthcare, SNOMED International and others. Any healthcare stakeholder is invited to join.

"We spend more than $3 trillion a year on healthcare in America and generate more health data than ever before," said AMA CEO James L. Madara, MD, in a statement announcing the initiative. "Yet some of the most meaningful data – data to unlock potential improvements in patient outcomes – is fragmented, inaccessible or incomplete."

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IHMI aims to help technology vendors and healthcare providers "better learn how to collect, organize, and exchange patient-centered data in a common structure that captures what is most important for improving care and long-term wellness, and transform the data into a rich stream of accessible and actionable information," said Madara.

The IHMI comprises three main strategies. First, it seeks to convene clinical and issue-based communities focused on specific problematic areas such as hypertension management and diabetes prevention, aiming to develop data best practices for patient-centric care.

Second, there's the development of a clinical validation process, where participants will offer online feedback to help specify data elements and relationships that will then be validated for clinical applicability, according to AMA

Third, participants will help create a strategy to encode information in the IHMI data model, with reference value sets that can be shared and distributed.

"I am excited about IHMI because it builds on the foundation of interoperability standards that are being created by HL7, LOINC, and SNOMED International," said Stan Huff, MD, chief medical informatics officer at Intermountain Healthcare, in a statement. "If we persist, that approach will lead to the ability to exchange medical knowledge as executable software rather than as journal articles. If we can do it, it will be a historic evolutionary step for medicine."

By embracing such a model, with common and clinically-validated data elements, healthcare organizations can improve their information management, analytics and decision support, according to AMA, and pave the way toward better interoperability, more efficient data structuring, improved workflow – and, ultimately, care models that lead to better patient outcomes.

"Ensuring the accuracy and completeness of the information used to manage a person's care is a priority for Cerner, so we are happy to support this AMA initiative to improve the semantics of clinical data models," said David McCallie, MD, senior vice president for medical informatics at Cerner. "This represents a bold attempt to advance an important aspect of interoperability."

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