New interoperability plan called ambitious, necessary by health IT leaders

Healthcare IT community leaders are reacting favorably to the government’s new plan to improve the interoperability of health information technology systems.

The 164-page plan, officially called Connecting Health and Care for the Nation, A Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap, was released Friday morning by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

A 13-page “Interoperability Standards Advisory” was also released. It lists what the government considers to be the best standards and implementation specifications for various health information exchange activities.

The plan’s focus on collaboration with a public/private governance authority is good, said Lee Barrett, executive director of the not-for-profit Electronic Healthcare Network Accreditation Commission. The commission, commonly known as EHNAC, certifies health information exchanges for organizations.

“There is a need for a third-party review,” Barrett said. “The ONC, or the government, is not going to take on that enforcement role. They’re looking for the industry to self-police. They want organizations to work with them and the industry to develop the criteria we’ll all use.”

Several organizations, including eHealth Initiative and the Workgroup on Electronic Data Interchange, have developed interoperability road maps on their own, Barrett said, so the government’s role will be to bring those efforts together.

“We have a lot of momentum,” Barrett said. “We have a lot of factions with different plans. But all of this has to come together. The appropriate role for government is to facilitate, not what I call mandate.

“If they can get the players to execute to the vision they have” and contribute their own ideas, Barrett said, “that’s a good role for the government to take, that of convener and facilitator.”
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