ONC tackles big challenges with international standards for data sharing

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As if creating standards for health data sharing in the U.S. wasn't difficult enough, making that happen internationally is an even bigger conundrum.

International standards work focuses on creating a set of "building blocks for interoperability," according to a Health IT Buzz blog post by Doug Fridsma, chief science officer and director of the White House Office of Science & Technology. According to Fridsma, several such efforts already are under way, including:

  • Defining an international vocabulary for health terms and products: The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT is working with the National Library of Medicine and with the European EHR standards group epSOS to create a consistent vocabulary on medications, treatments, lab tests and more.
  • Increasing patient access to their health information: While it seems a given in the U.S. that patients could access their own information, internationally, some systems limit access to providers.

Developing a consistent health IT standards framework remains one of the challenges. Fridsma points to the CTS-2 standard, developed by Health Level Seven International (HL7), as an example of the shared vocabularies and value sets being created across different health IT systems domestically that can be expanded internationally, as well.

With increased collaboration, Fridsma says, there are further opportunities through collective investments by governments to accelerate the process and streamline investments to improve data sharing, as well as to learn what works and what doesn't. It also opens the door for companies to find an international marketplace for their wares, he says.

In a recent Health IT Buzz post, National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari said meetings on interoperability were held last year "every 3.5 hours on average across the 10 standards and interoperability initiatives."

In September, HL7 announced it will make its intellectual property, including its standards for interoperability, free through licensing agreements, a move Mostashari described as "huge." HL7 said it was making the move to advance interoperability, help government agencies, vendors and academia fulfill their goals and be more closely aligned with other standards organizations.

To learn more:
- read the blog post

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