ONC's interoperability vision draws concern from federal advisers

While an official with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT provided an overview of a forthcoming interoperability roadmap at a virtual meeting of the agency's health IT policy committee on Wednesday, committee members raised concerns that perhaps the aim of the agency's effort is too broad.

Erica Galvez, the interoperability and exchange portfolio manager at ONC, said a draft of the roadmap--which will be a companion document to the agency's vision paper published in June--is due to be published in October. A more robust version that includes feedback from ONC's health IT policy and standards committees would then be available for public comment by January.

Version 1.0 of the roadmap, which Galvez stressed would be a "living document," is anticipated to be ready by March 2015.

"This will be something that we will revisit on a regular basis," Galvez said. "We recognize there will be things that will be unanticipated and unexpected."

Galvez said that ONC has adopted the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' definition of interoperability--the ability of two or more systems or components to exchange information and to use that exchanged information--and that the agency wants it to apply to individuals, their families and their healthcare providers in terms of having appropriate access to health information.

To that end, however, committee member Paul Egerman, former CEO of eScription, said it might not be realistic.

"What you're trying to do here with interoperability is a very, very hard issue, especially if you define it broadly," Egerman said. "Is this what we really want to do?"

Egerman added that "layering" individuals accessing their data onto interoperability increases the difficulty of the task at hand

"If we just get the systems themselves to talk to each other, that would be a huge accomplishment," Egerman said. "Perhaps we're making this harder than we need to make it, and it's already pretty hard."

Committee member Marc Probst, CIO at Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare, said the agency is trying to do too much.

"It seems to me that things like empowering individuals or maintaining modularity or focusing on value--those are how we would use interoperability, if we had it," Probst said. "If we could focus first on getting interoperability, I don't know that we have to burden this roadmap with empowering individuals."

Galvez added that ONC has launched a new online community to solicit public input on the roadmap. Comments, according to a Health IT Buzz blog post touting the community, are due by Sept. 12.

To learn more:
- download Galvez's presentation from the meeting
- check out the online community
- read the Health IT Buzz post

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