By Michael Burger, Senior Consultant
While there are many uncertainties in health care, interoperability and standards will undoubtedly be areas of focus through the end of the year. Everyone wants and needs health information technology (health IT) to be, well, more interoperable and useful. To that end, work will continue on refining existing standards to address interoperability challenges. That work includes federal policies and ongoing efforts by standards development organizations (SDOs) and electronic health record (EHR) vendors.
Federal policies. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) will be active in this area. Although its fiscal year 2018 budget is likely to be considerably smaller than in previous years, the agency says it is committed to interoperability and standards as main areas of emphasis. As part of that commitment, ONC is putting the finishing touches on its Proposed Interoperability Standards Measurement Framework, the final document for which will be issued this fall. Results will inform the agency’s Interoperability Standards Advisory and updates to its Health IT Certification Program.
The newly created Health Information Technology Advisory Committee will also be influential with regard to standards and interoperability. This committee will soon convene for the first time and it’s pretty much a given that its recommendations to ONC will be translated into rule making and policy.
Industry Progress. The next few months also should see continued progress by SDOs in refining standards for interoperability with a focus on practical use cases by vendors.
One example is FHIR (Fast Health Interoperability Resources), which is one of the newest standards from Health Level 7 (HL7). Vendors are beginning to embrace the most recent iteration of the standard for various clinical use cases and FHIR is being used to extract relevant clinical data from EHRs. The goal is to facilitate data sharing among physicians, hospitals and payers, which in turn will improve patient care, enhance public health and hold down costs.
Also, the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs (NCPDP) is refining the SCRIPT standard to facilitate the transition to electronic prescribing of specialty medications. Today, specialty prescribing is largely a manual process, which isn’t easily adapted to existing electronic prescribing workflows. An NCPDP task group is looking at ways in which new data elements could be added to the SCRIPT standard to handle enrollment for specialty medications, which accompanies the prior authorization that is required for nearly all such medications. The goal is to enable enrollment and electronic prior authorization (ePA) for specialty medications. Changes to the standard will enhance the ePA functionality, which EHR vendors have already built for non-specialty medications. (For more information on automating specialty enrollment, see the article in this issue of HIT Perspectives.)
Challenges. There are still obstacles that must be overcome to move health IT interoperability down the field. Three come to mind:
The Point-of-Care Partners team are experts in standards and interoperability. If you are planning for pilots, software optimization or new initiatives, let us know so that we can discuss how POCP can be of assistance. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.