Plans for the National Health Information Infrastructure, which to date have been little more than lofty ideals, today took a major step forward when three Cabinet-level federal departments announced the first set of electronic connectivity standards for clinical health information.
HHS, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, the three departments that provide healthcare services, are leading this effort to coordinate health data among federal agencies as part of the Bush administration's Consolidated Health Informatics initiative.
The standards, which HHS says all federal agencies will adopt, include Health Level 7 messaging standards and pharmacy ordering codes developed by the National Council on Prescription Drug Programs.
The government also will follow private-sector industry standards for connecting medical devices to information systems, transmission of digital images and exchange of laboratory results.
"It's important for the federal government to lead by example by selecting and adopting these standards," HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson says in a statement.
According to VA Secretary Anthony Principi, "National health information standards, already adopted by VA, will improve health outcomes, increase patient safety and help achieve optimal use of scarce resources."