Pew calls on ONC to include unstructured EHR data in APIs

Data sharing
Pew wants ONC to include unstructured data, including free text notes, in API regulations. (Image: Getty/opera3d)

Highlighting the limitations of the Common Clinic Data Set, Pew Charitable Trusts wants federal officials to expand the types of data that can be exchanged through application programming interfaces (APIs).

In a letter (PDF) to the National Coordinator Donald Rucker, M.D., Pew Charitable Trusts’ Ben Moscovitch called on the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT to consider including unstructured data within EHRs as it develops regulation for APIs. Specifically, the organization wants ONC to look beyond the basic information defined in the CCDS and include information about allergies, family history, social determinants of health, medical images and genomic data.

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“While some data elements contained in EHRs may not be structured in a standard way, the agency should not limit access to that information solely due to the lack of standardization,” Moscovitch wrote. “For example, some free text notes may be essential to transmit, or some critical data elements may be coded in standards that are not widely adopted.”

ONC’s recently released draft Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement addresses this issue by creating a set of data standards called the U.S. Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI). Under the Trusted Exchange Framework, those minimum data classes would be “adopted and updated from time to time by HHS."

API usage is one of several priorities for the agency. Under the 2015 EHR Certification requirements, EHR vendors are required to transmit CCDS data via open API.