New ONC Interoperability Framework: Open for Comment

“Interoperability” is seemingly one of the most popular buzzwords in the health care lexicon today. It’s long been a goal, but it has been much harder to achieve in practice. For its part, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) is seeking to provide guidance for providers, health care organizations, and developers working toward the more seamless sharing of health information. As Healthcare IT News first reported, ONC is seeking public comment until July 31 on its framework, which “could help technology developers, HIE organizations, and providers adopt a set of uniform, agreed-upon measures to assess progress on interoperability.”

Key to the framework: making sure that everyone is on the same page. As ONC’s Steven Posnack, who directs the agency’s Office of Standards and Technology, put it in a recent blog post, “Experience has shown that just because technology includes ‘standardized’ capabilities they are not necessarily used to their fullest extent nor are they always implemented in a ‘standardized’ manner.” The framework also aims to move beyond standardization to uncover what might be holding some organizations and providers back from embracing interoperability. As Posnack explained, “Measuring for what purposes and to what extent interoperability standards are being implemented and used is of particular importance because it can identify industry trends as well as areas where standardization on its own appears not to be enough to prompt widespread use.”

Interoperability was also a key goal of the 21st Century Cures Act, which was signed into law last year. As we noted last week, the law generally placed an emphasis on empowering patients to access their electronic health information, along with protecting patient privacy. Among other provisions, it created the Health IT Advisory Committee, which is tasked with creating standards for interoperability. Recently, health IT advocates have urged lawmakers to ensure that Cures programs are fully funded during the next year’s appropriations process.

Click here for the article from Healthcare IT News on the ONC framework.

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