A group of more than 100 public and private healthcare organizations and stakeholders today announced the adoption of an initial set of voluntary healthcare data standards, claiming this and other steps will help speed the way toward an interconnected national health information infrastructure.
Connecting for Health, a collaboration convened by the Markle Foundation, a New York-based information technology philanthropy, also reported on progress in three other areas: privacy and security practices, personal electronic medical records and an electronic communications demonstration project.
"The healthcare industry needs to be able to deliver information where and when it is needed in a private and secure manner if we are to provide the best possible care to patients," said Carol Diamond, M.D., chair of Connecting for Health, at a conference in Washington, D.C.
Formed in September 2002, a steering group for Connecting for Health agreed to voluntarily adopt data standards, which HHS and other federal agencies also agreed to adopt in March of this year. In just nine months, the steering committee has settled on an initial list of 10 specific standards for imaging, drug information, medical device communication and other protocols and standards it said are ready for broad adoption and use.
"This is a starting point," said Diamond, who also is managing director of the Markle Foundation's Information Technologies for Better Health program. "The transformation is not yet complete."
"This work has the potential to enable effective and secure communication among healthcare organizations, improve quality and reduce the cost of care and strengthen the efforts of consumers, patients and caregivers," said Janet Marchibroda, executive director of Connecting for Health and CEO of the eHealth Initiative, a not-for-profit health information organization based in Washington, D.C.
A privacy and security working group within the coalition has identified effective privacy and security practices and developed case studies to encourage sharing of notable systems among healthcare providers. Among its findings is that rigorous privacy and security measures allow sharing of clinical information and public health data without interfering with a physician's access to information for patient care.
About 70% of consumers would be interested in a personal EMR, and 40% mistakenly believe that physicians already use such EMRs, according to a survey conducted by the Foundation for Accountability, or FACCT, on behalf of Connecting for Health. FACCT is a not-for-profit healthcare consumer advocacy organization based in Portland, Ore.
In reality, fewer that 8% of doctors actually use an EMR.
Connecting for Health today also unveiled its Healthcare Collaborative Network, a consortium involving 20 hospitals, physicians groups, payers, IT companies, and public health and government agencies working to demonstrate concrete electronic communications solutions. Its purpose is to show that standards-based electronic data exchange is feasible for a wide range of parties involved in healthcare delivery.
Participants include New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tenn., and Wishard Memorial Hospital, Indianapolis, Ind., as well as IBM and three federal agencies: CMS, the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The first phase of the project will promote the tracking of drug reactions, quality of care and disease outbreaks. Future goals are to address additional clinical needs of practicing physicians, payers and researchers.
"Before the full value of IT can be realized, an interconnected healthcare network must be created that links providers, insurers, regulators and patients," said Herbert Pardes, M.D., president and CEO of New York-Presbyterian Hospital and CEO of the NYP Healthcare System. "To do this requires standards. It is our duty as healthcare professionals to take every opportunity available to continuously improve the quality of care we provide."