US, EU aim for cooperation on standards, metrics

By Jack Beaudoin
01:18 PM

Healthcare IT leaders from the United States and Europe say they're confident they stand on the brink of a new era of eHealth cooperation. But if the areas they identified at a panel on EU-US cooperation represents the "low-hanging fruit," no one should expect immediate results.

"The way to solve a problem is to make it bigger," noted Ilias Iakovidis, a high-level European Commissioner director for health. "If we have not solved the interoperability problems in Europe, we can solve it by making it global."

Also on the cooperative to-do list: EHR certification, analytics for measuring progress, and secondary use of healthcare data.

Iakovidis was joined on Tuesday's World of Health IT panel by Pablo Rivero, General Director of the Ministry of Health and Social Policy in Spain, Charles Friedman, Chief Scientific Officer of the U.S. Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, and Kevin M. Fickenscher, a physician now working for Dell who represented the European-American Business Council.

"We think the cooperation with U.S. is a very important matter... in fostering the quality of healthcare," said Rivero. "Important for research, and important for developing a global market for eHealth. It will be a clear message for the world to have a global space for eHealth."

Friedman said his boss, ONC chief David Blumenthal, MD, was very supportive of the cooperative efforts that are being planned. "It's time to move," he said, "from productive discussions to productive actions."

Friedman said the U.S. was particularly interested in cooperation with Europe on standards and interoperability, and metrics to measure progress.

"Many nations are measuring progress, but there is no apples-to-apples comparison," Friedman said. "We are working through OECD with a number of European nations to identify a small set of questions or indicators that might be employed in a uniform way across nations and therefore create the basis for an apples-to-apples comparison."

The reality need not be far off, Friedman added. The American definition of meaningful use for 2011 aligns nicely with the European Patients Smart Open Services, or EPSOS, large scale pilot. This "creates an enormous potential opportunity for collaboration that will scale."

Iakovidis added two more projects to the collaboration list: product certification and the secondary use of health data. Collaborative certification, he said, could produce "a level field where companies can compete on equal footing [and] will lead to much lower prices... much better safety and quality."

As for secondary use of data, Iakovidis was even more loquacious.

"The lawyers don't even want to discuss with us the re-use of EHRs for anything other than patient care," he said. "But imagine tomorrow when all the university hospitals will be acting as one! We will change the meaning of the word 'evidence' if we achieve legal, ethical, practical and semantic reuse of patient data."

That evidence, in turn, will lead to much better outcomes, much better public health and much stronger methods to combat infectious diseases.

"Researchers on both sides of Atlantic struggle to get enough data to verify their models and theories," Iakovidis argued. "Everybody is working with small data sets that are statistical insignificant."

Fickenscher added several other candidate for cooperative efforts. He said developing common approaches to broadband policy, cyber-security and workforce training would pay immense dividends and address concerns on both sides of the Atlantic.

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