After years of lofty ideas, conceptualization and endless talk--but precious little action--two projects to promote electronic connectivity of clinical information are on the fast track.
- Shortly after Labor Day, members of Health Level Seven, a standards-setting body, will know the results of a vote on adoption of a voluntary national standard for electronic medical records-a model that HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson asked HL7 and the Institute of Medicine to develop.
- By November, the Massachusetts Medical Society, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society and ASTM International, a developer of industry-specific, voluntary consensus standards, hope to have recommendations for sharing clinical and administrative data to assure continuity of care when patients move between facilities.
Chicago-based HIMSS also is involved in the EMR project, since the HL7 proposal largely is based on plans written by HIMSS and the eHealth Initiative. The latter group is a project of Connecting for Health, a collaboration of more than 100 diverse healthcare interests that is promoting electronic connectivity.
In general, the HL7 proposal states that an EMR should be more than a digitized representation of a paper chart, but rather a real-time information resource at the point of care. The standard also calls for integration of clinical records with billing, quality management, outcomes reporting and public health surveillance systems.
Healthcare stakeholders of all stripes aired their concerns at 11 public meetings held last month by the EHR Collaborative, an ambitious public-private effort that hopes to reach consensus on the contents of an EMR and hand it over to HL7 in just a couple of months.
On July 1, Thompson asked HL7 and IOM to report back with a proposed standard by Sept. 1. HL7 said last month that it would meet the deadline but would continue soliciting votes until Sept. 5.
HL7 members will review the balloting at a Sept. 7-12 meeting in Memphis, Tenn. If the standards pass, they will go into effect for a four-month provisional period, after which HL7 members will take a final vote.
The Massachusetts project, which the American Academy of Family Physicians joined Aug. 14, seeks to develop what is being called the Continuity of Care Record.
"These are minimum-content standards for doctors referring patients," says MMS President Thomas Sullivan, M.D.
According to Sullivan, "A lot of the docs who are on the receiving end (of a referral) don't have information, so it makes (the care process) more cumbersome."
Participants hope to reach consensus by Nov. 17.