A step in the right direction…standards for health interoperability

by Hans on 2005/06/06

Computerworld.com reports in an article titled “HHS tackles health care IT interoperability” that the US Health and Human Services Department announced a new initiative to address the lack of a commonly accepted interoperable standard for health care.

Basically, a new committee, the American Health Information Community (AHIC) will be charged with working with public and private groups to “make recommendations to HHS on how to ensure electronic medical records are interoperable while protecting the privacy and security of patient data”. The AHIC will solicit proposals for “contracts to create processes for data standards, product certification, privacy and security, and the architecture for an Internet-based, nationwide health information exchange”. I find it interesting that there wasn’t any emphasis on actually getting people/groups to use the standard(s). As one of my colleagues at the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation commented, the problem isn’t the lack of standards. The problem is in getting people to use the existing standard(s) instead of creating new ones.

I applaud the government for trying to provide leadership by taking the first step. But, I wonder if this initiative will be enough. In such a fragmented system like that in the United States, can all the different groups get along? I mean, here in Canada, we are supposedly “one” system with a single payer and yet we can’t even get a single system in place. I just hope that for everyone involved, this initiative is successful.

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