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ONC Introduces Tech Lab to Focus on Standards, Testing, Pilots and Innovation

February 23, 2016
by Heather Landi
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The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) announced a new initiative to help healthcare organizations “adapt and evolve ONC’s standards and technology work process.”

The ONC Tech Lab will provide “internal and external stakeholders with common connection points to ONC’s standards and technology efforts,” according to Steven Posnack, director, office of standards and technology at ONC, in his Health IT Buzz blog post published today.

One goal of the ONC Tech Lab is to ensure that ONC’s work is aligned and connected to ongoing changes in the health IT landscape, such as the Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap and the transitions taking place due to the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), as well as developments like the Health level System International (HL7) FHIR and the Argonaut Project, Posnack wrote.

“In concert with the ONC Health IT Certification Program, we believe this principled approach will provide internal and external stakeholders with common connection points to ONC’s standards and technology efforts. This transition lays the operational groundwork within ONC necessary to implement the Interoperability Roadmap and ties directly to our near-term health IT strategy and, ultimately, the long-term vision included in the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan,” he wrote.

Specifically, Posnack stated, the ONC Tech Lab will focus on four area:

Standards Coordination: ONC will focus on interactions with standards development organizations and industry stakeholders to identify standards gaps and where more clarity or reduced optionality is needed. Additionally, ONC will look to connect new program, policy, and business requirements to technical standards and infrastructure needs.

Testing and Utilities: This area will include collaborative work on testing tools, including those in support of the ONC Health IT Certification Program and the Standards Implementation & Testing Environment, utilities for health IT developers and providers to test their health IT functionality in the field, and coordination with industry sector stakeholders on the development of additional testing resources and testing events.

Pilots: ONC plans to support implementation pilots for standards (especially those identified in the Interoperability Standards Advisory) and look to stimulate cooperation and creativity among the active pilot community that exists nationwide in a way that brings greater visibility to all of the interoperability projects taking place.

Innovation: ONC will work with start-up communities to administer challenge contests, and on forward looking standards and technology activities to support new technologies.

Posnack also highlighted previous successes, such as the Standards and Interoperability Framework (S&I Framework), which kicked-off over five years ago, as served as the forum that developed Direct, “helped accelerate the creation of the Consolidated CDA, and created a new suite of laboratory data exchange implementation guides.” And, he noted, as ONC moves to this next phase of its interoperability work, the S&I Framework’s operations “will conclude and wind down over the coming months and the relevant activities of any remaining ONC-supported ‘S&I Framework initiatives’ will be completed under an ONC Tech Lab focus area.”

Posnack also wrote that ONC would be publishing a four-part blog series detailing ONC’s work in each of the ONC Tech Lab’s focus areas.

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