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ONC Releases 2017 Draft Interoperability Standards Advisory

August 23, 2016
by Heather Landi
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The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has issued its draft Interoperability Standards Advisory (ISA) for 2017 for public comment.

The ISA is a model by which ONC coordinates the identification, assessment and public awareness of interoperability standards and implementation specifications that can be used by the industry. According to ONC, the draft ISA for 2017 remains focused on clinical health IT interoperability and updates and improvements are due largely to recommendations received from public comments and the Health IT Standards Committee.

At a high level, the most substantial changes between the 2016 advisory and the draft 2017 ISA are largely related to the ISA’s content and framing. ONC is transitioning the ISA from a stand-alone document to a Web-based resource with greater interactive potential.

With the draft ISA for 2017, ONC discontinued the use of the label “best available” as an overall concept for the ISA to be more inclusive, which was a change recommended by the Health IT Standards Committee. “This change seeks to address feedback that stakeholders may perceive varied standards and implementation specifications associated with an interoperability need as ‘best’ despite known limitations or low adoption levels,” ONC officials stated in the draft advisory.

And, the draft for 2017 includes links to active projects listed in ONC’s interoperability proving ground as a way to indicate their use of an ISA-listed standard or implementation specification to showcase ongoing implementations. And, the draft 2017 ISA offers better representation of the pairing of standards of observations and standards for observations values.

The 2017 draft also includes revisions and additional descriptive text for several of the six informative characteristics of interoperability standards. 

In a related blog post, Steven Posnack, ONC director of office standards and technology, and Chris Muir, director of the agency’s HIT infrastructure and innovation division at the office of standards and technology, wrote that the ISA is a key element of ONC’s continued implementation of the Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap and directly supports the interoperability commitments that leading health IT developers, providers and professional associations and stakeholder groups made earlier this year.

“By providing the industry with a single, public list of the standards and implementation specifications that can be consistently used to fulfill specific clinical interoperability needs, we hope to spur more seamless and secure flow of information across the health system,” Posnack and Muir wrote in the blog post. “We have attempted to reflect the ongoing dialogue, debate, and consensus among industry stakeholders—including public comment from earlier this year and deliberations by the Health IT Standards Committee—particularly where more than one standard or implementation specification could be used to fulfill specific clinical health information needs.”

Posnack and Muri also wrote that the draft 2017 ISA also represents the first phase of ONC’s effort to transition the ISA to an interactive online platform, starting with the publication of this draft as an online version. Additional interactive functionality will be built throughout this year, they wrote.

“Our goal is to shift the ISA experience from a static, PDF to an interactive, wiki style product that stakeholders can more fully engage with and shape. This will enable more efficient, closer to real-time updates and comments as well as other valuable features, such as hyperlinks to projects in the interoperability proving ground that are using a particular ISA-referenced standard. A printer-friendly version of the ISA will be made available as well,” Posnack and Muir wrote.

The comment period for the draft advisory will run to mid-October. Based on public comments, the draft 2017 ISA will be revised and the final 2017 advisory will be published in December.




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