Stage 3 bullish on interoperability

More collaboration expected as government and organizations make big push
By John Andrews
12:00 AM

The push for meaningful use Stage 3 has reached a point where a confluence of power structures are ready for more breakthroughs – hence, the impetus for collaboration among IHE USA, ONC and S&I Framework, officials from these groups say.

Closer ties between Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise USA, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and Standards and the ONC’s Interoperability Framework is necessary for interoperability to reach meaningful use Stage 3, said Joyce Sensmeier, IHE USA president and HIMSS vice president of informatics.

“There is an increasing need for interoperability capability to achieve meaningful use Stage 3 goals,” she said. “We really need all groups working in the same direction  – HIE, HL7 and Health Story Project – all working toward similar goals and leveraging for the same purpose. The leadership of the ONC and S&I Framework became more involved and brought new proposals to consider for help with Stage 3. It’s for the good of everybody.”

Doug Fridsma, MD, chief science officer and director for the ONC Office of Science and Technology, oversees several efforts to streamline health information exchange and interoperability.

The S&I Framework within the ONC came about to collect input from the public and private sectors to create harmonized health IT specifications for use throughout the U.S. The program represents “a unique approach to developing and evolving a transparent model of health information exchange,” according to an ONC statement, which adds that the framework “operates on the belief that many of the critical elements for health IT interoperability success already exist.”

For IHE USA, the collaboration “definitely means some changes,” Sensmeier said. “We will be rolling out a membership program to get more individuals involved with new committees; we will get more involved in the technical focus committees to develop work that is U.S.-centric. We are taking that proposal to the board to identify what committees we need and how to move forward.”

Integral to the collaboration is the New Directions program debut and the Interoperability Showcase at HIMSS14.

“New Directions has four S&I initiatives involved, with Health Story Project, Continua’s Plugfest, ONC’s S&I Framework and Health eDecisions in the mix,” said Alexander Lippitt Jr., HIMSS senior director of standards and interoperability. “We’re working with (the National Institute of Standards and Technology) on virtual testing, and we have some cool scenarios for the Interoperability Showcase vignettes, such as Health Story focusing on heavy ambulatory cases.”

The New Directions component also affords the annual IHE North American Connectathon a process “to test things that aren’t fully published profiles yet,” Sensmeier said. “Allowing testing to come about before final profiles is part of laying the path forward and is a benefit to everyone. Are we heading down the right path? We may have to fine tune some things, but people can clearly see where things are headed – just not what is fully baked and ready for primetime.”

Sensmeier and representatives of the partnering groups are working to promote the new collaboration, leveraging resources of HIMSS, the Radiological Society of North America and the Electronic Health Records Association.

“It shows the commitment of everyone involved, and we’re all working together to meet the needs of the industry,” Sensmeier said.