AHA: 2016 Interoperability Standards Advisory needs more detail

The 2016 draft Interoperability Standards Advisory, which identifies and assesses the best standards and implementation specifications for supporting interoperability, doesn't provide sufficient information and needs to be fleshed out more, according to the American Hospital Association (AHA).

In a comment letter Nov. 6, to National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo, AHA Vice President and Acting Senior Executive of Policy Ashley Thompson, asks the agency to provide greater detail about the characteristics and metrics used to assess the standards identified as the "best available."

The 2016 draft Advisory lists six characteristics to determine whether a standard is "best available:"

  • Standards process maturity
  • Implementation maturity
  • Adoption level
  • Regulated
  • Cost
  • Test tool availability

However, the advisory should supplement the characteristics with information on the use of the standard in a real world environment, according to the AHA. For example, simply because something has been widely adopted does not necessarily mean that it successfully meets providers' needs. The AHA cites the difficult-to-use Direct standard as an example.

The advisory also should include information on any limitations or preconditions on a standard, the availability of test tools to evaluate conformance to the standard or specification, and more education about the best available standards to support successful use.

There's been little consistency in the public comments about the scope and design of the advisory, which is the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's first deliverable in support of its national interoperability roadmap. The 2015 advisory was released earlier this year at the same time that ONC released its 10-year roadmap for public comment; the 2016 draft was released for comment in September. 

The advisory, which is to be updated every year, is not binding, but meant to provide clarity, consistency and predictability regarding the best standards and specifications for interoperability. 

The Department of Health and Human Services has already begun to recommend that providers, even those not participating in the Meaningful Use incentive program, take the "best available" interoperability standards into account when implementing data sharing.

To learn more:
- read the letter (.pdf)