Fridsma: Healthcare communication is not one-size-fits-all

Doug Fridsma, Director of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's Office of Standards & Interoperability, says he doesn't believe one-size-fits-all when it comes to healthcare communications efforts. Instead, just like in daily life, comfort is what's most important to each user.

"You find the right tool for the right person," Fridsma said in an exclusive interview with FierceHealthIT this week at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's annual conference in Las Vegas.

"When you talk to your family, do you use email? Do you use the phone? Do you use Facebook?" he asked. "There's no set way that we communicate with our family, so why would there be just one for the way we communicate with our healthcare community?"

Fridsma (pictured) said he thinks eventually--and probably sooner than one might think--people will be using web services, Direct, and CONNECT in communications efforts, in addition to tools that have yet to even be created.

Fridsma talked at length about the Nationwide Health Information Network and what changes he foresees for the near future. He called NwHIN a "portfolio of standards, services and policies," and said that building blocks--necessary components within that portfolio--ultimately would be the key to solving actual physician problems.

"For example, one of the building blocks is this Laboratory Results Interface [the LRI project]," he said. "What we're doing is we're taking our standardized vocabularies--like LOINC [logical observation identifiers names and codes]--and our building blocks around the structure, and Direct, and assembling those together to solve the problem of making sure that a laboratory result is available to a primary care doctor wherever they are."

Those efforts, in turn, will allow S&I officials to determine what pieces are missing from their portfolio. "Certainly within, say, the Transitions of Care project, there's been a community swell to develop long-term care transitions," Fridsma told FierceHealthIT. "And that's going to require some new data. It's going to require some new kinds of information that we're going to have to convey. I could see us again developing a richer portfolio with some new building blocks."

Additionally, Fridsma said that he and his colleagues need to figure out how the standards, services and policies are properly coordinated and organized in some sort of governance structure.

"In the HITECH Act, there's a line that says that the Office of the National Coordinator shall establish governance over the Nationwide Health Information Network," he said. "So, I expect us, as this all matures, to begin putting in the pieces that we need to govern how those standards, services and policies devolve over time. New ones are added, old ones are deprecated and we can kind of move things forward."

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