HHS advisor: Metadata standards 'premature' for Meaningful Use

The National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics (NCVHS), the statutory public advisory body to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, has recommended that the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) hold off on including metadata standards to Stage 2 of the Meaningful Use incentive program.   

ONC had issued an advance notice of rulemaking Aug. 9, noting that it was considering the adoption of standards for metadata in support of Stage 2 of the Meaningful Use program, as well as establishing certification criteria for EHRs to be capable of applying those metadata standards. Metadata is data that provides more detail or information about a piece of data, according to ONC.

NCVHS, in a letter to ONC dated September 23, warned ONC that the industry was not yet ready to incorporate metadata into Stage 2 of meaningful use.

"Although metadata tagging has the potential to increase the reliability, dependability and trustworthiness of health information exchanges by including metadata descriptors about the data being exchanged, this approach is not in current use and there are no accepted standards for metadata tags," Dr. Justine Carr, chair for NCVHS, wrote. Among other things, the committee was concerned about the unintended consequences of adapting such standards now, noting that there needs to be a better understanding of the current level of maturity of such standards and assessment of the degree that they've been tested or used.

The Committee recommended that ONC not include metadata standards or certification criteria for them in Stage 2, and hold off on issuing a proposed rule on the subject until metadata standards have been thoroughly tested in demonstration pilots.

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) and the American Hospital Association also have urged the government not to include metadata standards in Stage 2 of Meaningful Use.

To learn more:
- read NCVHS' comment letter (.pdf)
- check out this Health Data Management article
- here's the advance notice of rule making (.pdf)