The White House Urges Standards for Health Information Exchange

In a White House report published on December 8th, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) advocated the adoption of standards (i.e., a universal exchange language) to enable healthcare providers to exchange patient health information in real-time.  The White House urged the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to develop definitions for a standard language and include them in provisional requirements for achieving “meaningful use” of EHRs in order to modernize and coordinate diagnoses while also incorporating privacy and security of personal data.

According to the report, the federal government has made significant progress in transitioning the country’s healthcare system to IT, but information is still being trapped in proprietary systems, not allowing healthcare providers to share patient data.

PCAST recommends that EHRs exchange patient health information in a standard way that is based on meta-data, tagged-data elements.  The ONC reports that it has begun developing universal standards that support interoperability and communication across various EHR platforms.

In order to protect the privacy and security of all this exchanged data, the report proposes that the data be split into elemental pieces and be supplemented by a meta-data tag that not only describes the data, but also includes the patient’s preferences for that data and any required security protections.  This technology for universal exchange languages, called extensible mark-up languages, is already in use by other industries.  It enables specific health information to be kept private while allowing other information to be disclosed, depending on the patient’s preferences.

Currently through January 17th, 2011 the ONC is encouraging and asking for public comments on the report.  You can submit your comments regarding the report.

View PCAST’s report and get further knowledge.