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U.S., U.K. to collaborate on health IT, data projects


By Joseph Conn
Posted: January 24, 2014 - 3:45 pm ET
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HHS and health authorities in the United Kingdom agreed to collaborate on a broad scope of health information technology and health data projects and practices.

A six-page memorandum of understanding (PDF) was to be signed Friday by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Chief Technology Officer Bryan Sivak, and their counterparts in the National Health Service of England and the U.K.'s healthcare data handling and standards development agency.

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It builds on several trans-Atlantic health IT initiatives, including a multinational pact between the U.S. and the European Commission on technology and data in 2010, and a bilateral summit between U.S. and U.K. officials last summer.

Candidates projects under the agreement include harmonizing clinical quality indicators and analyzing various approaches to putting healthcare data to work, said Dr. Rebecca Mitchell Coelius, medical officer for innovation in the Office of Science and Technology at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS.

One specific area of knowledge sharing could be the ONC’s efforts to employ Lean management principles to accelerate the development of quality measures.

The partners might also work out common ways patients can access their health data held by provider and payer organizations and forward it to another, known as “patient-mediated exchange.”

The agreement came as no surprise to Dr. Seong Ki Mun, president and CEO of the Open Source Electronic Health Record Alliance, a not-for-profit organization formed by the Veterans Affairs Department to oversee future development of its now largely open source VistA electronic health-record system. Mun said he met with U.K. officials during their visit here in June and it seemed clear then that there had been a meeting of the minds on collaboration.

“They were certainly interested in electronic health records, VistA and the personal health record,” Mun said. “I guess, since then, the conversation between the two governments has matured.”

In fact, the relationship between the U.K. and the VA over health IT sharing had already blossomed last March into a three-year agreement to share leaders, staffers and ideas in the cause of trans-Atlantic knowledge transfer.

But don't look for adoption across the pond of a single U.S. health IT solution, at least not one like the one driven by top-down leadership from the NHS, according to Mun. The regional healthcare organizations, or trusts, that provide care under the NHS system, are still smarting and wary after NHS finally pulled the plug in 2011 on a failed effort to orchestrate the nationwide adoption of electronic patient records.

“They're going to leave it up to different trusts to make a proposal to the government as to how they want to try to adopt an open source electronic health records,” Mun said.

Follow Joseph Conn on Twitter: @MHJConn


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