States, vendors collaborate on data connectivity specifications

The EHR/HIE Interoperability Workgroup, a collaboration among seven states, eight electronic health record vendors, and three health information exchanges, has agreed on several standard health data connectivity specifications to ensure that providers, HIEs and others can better use EHRs to share patient data.   

The goal of the collaboration on these specifications is to increase the adoption of EHRs and remove "impediments that make it difficult for EHRs to connect to HIEs, including technical specification differences, wait times for interfaced development and high costs," the Nov. 8 announcement states.

The workgroup released two sets of specifications, leveraged from existing standards from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and others. The first, "Statewide Send and Receive Patient Record Exchange," describes how encrypted health information can be transmitted over the Internet. The second, "Statewide Patient Data Inquiry Service," describes a clinician's ability to query an HIE for relevant data on a participating patient.

The group is hoping for widespread adoption and market preference for products that use the specifications.

The lack of standardization of EHR specifications has long been an issue in the industry, with many vendors still offering proprietary non-interoperable systems. Groups such as HL7 and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM International) have been working to facilitate the creation of EHR standards, as pointed out by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) and others.

The workgroup also plans to work collaboratively to create additional standard specifications for EHRs, including specifications regarding the importing of patient histories, medication history, insurance eligibility, and public health/quality reports, according to the Massachusetts eHealth Institute, one of the members of the workgroup. 

To learn more:
- read the press release
- check out John Halamka's blog post about the project
- here's AHIMA's take on standardization

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