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BREAKING: ONC Releases First Draft of Interoperability Roadmap

January 30, 2015
by Gabriel Perna
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Includes short and long-term goals

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) released a 166-page, first draft interoperability roadmap, which outlines specific steps needed to achieve an open ecosystem in the next 10 years.

The ONC says that achieving the interoperable ecosystem will require work in three areas: 1) Standards 2) Motivating the use of those standards through incentives and 3) Creating a trusted environment for collecting, sharing, and using electronic health information. This trusted environment, the ONC says, will mean that different stakeholders will have to be aligned.

“To realize better care and the vision of a learning health system, we will work together across the public and private sectors to clearly define standards, motivate their use through clear incentives, and establish trust in the health IT ecosystem through defining the rules of engagement.  We look forward to working collaboratively and systematically with federal, state and private sector partners to see that electronic health information is available when and where it matters,” Karen DeSalvo, M.D., national coordinator for health IT, said in a statement.

While roadmap has the long-term goal of a complete interoperable system in 10 years, there is a three-year plan to enable a majority of individuals and providers across the care continuum to send, receive, find and use a common set of electronic clinical information at the nationwide level. The longer term goals are about standards for community-based services, social services, public health and the research community.

In the nearer-term, ONC will identify the best available technical standards for core interoperability functions that exist today. In conjunction with the roadmap, the ONC released the Draft 2015 Interoperability Advisory, which includes the best available standards and implementation specifications for interoperability of clinical health information (“Standards Advisory”).

The ONC’s roadmap builds off its concept paper, Connecting Health and Care for the Nation: A 10-Year Vision to Achieve an Interoperable Health IT Infrastructure, released in June of last year. The map took feedback from health IT stakeholders from that paper and incorporated that into the roadmap.

ONC says the roadmap’s release should be considered in conjunction with the release of Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Precision Medicine Initiative. The $215 million initiative includes the use of health IT systems and money to ONC to ensure clinical research data is exchanged in a safe manner.

The roadmap received praise from industry leaders. In a statement, Russell P. Branzell, CEO of the College of Health Information Management Executives, said: "This is a much-needed playbook for each and every health IT professional. Now, healthcare providers and health IT developers have a single source of truth, with an extensible process to align clinical standards towards improved interoperability, efficiency and patient safety. While we have made great strides as a nation to improve EHR adoption, we must pivot towards true interoperability based on clear, defined and enforceable standards."

However, not everyone is high on the idea of a roadmap that looks past three years. In an interview with HCI for a Top Ten Tech Trend, Micky Tripathi, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative (MAeHC) questioned the concept and said if you look at 10 years, it’s going to be speculative. “In our workgroup, we’ve said let’s just talk about the next three years. Beyond that, it is anyone’s guess,” Tripathi said. HL7 CEO Charles Jaffe, M.D., Ph.D., agreed with Tripathi that planning for 10 years out is too difficult, beyond setting an ultimate goal

ONC is accepting public comment on the roadmap until April 3, 2015.

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