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Interoperability key to realizing health IT goals: IOM


By Rich Daly
Posted: May 23, 2011 - 2:30 pm ET
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Without "seamless interoperability," health information technology's potential will go unmet, a report on the healthcare digital infrastructure from the Institute of Medicine found.

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That was the conclusion of health IT experts during a series of “expert meetings” organized by the Institute of Medicine in the summer and fall of 2010 at the request of the federal Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Those experts—among them, researchers, computer scientists, privacy experts, clinicians, healthcare administrators, HIT professionals and representatives of patient advocacy groups—agreed that a digital health infrastructure cannot be effective unless it is integrated seamlessly within the healthcare processes "from which it draws and is meant to support care delivery, research, quality improvement and population health monitoring."

Other critical components for the success of health IT, as identified by meeting participants, include the ease of technology use for health system stakeholders, attention to systems' effects on work flow, and the delivery of useful decision support at point of care, according to the IOM's 320-page report on the meetings.

Among the issues that the health IT system will have to address, according to participant Ian Foster of Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, Ill., are obstacles to establishing a secure digital platform. Specifically, data-sharing "on an unprecedented scale" will necessitate system scalability; the ability to track data to its origin; and transparency in terms of data use policies and enforcement.


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