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Lingua Franca for Health IT

December 13, 2010 No Comments

SOURCE: Lingua Franca for Health IT

If federal health IT initiatives are to succeed, the government must promote widespread adoption of a universal exchange language for securely transferring health data, announced the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology on Wednesday.

In a new report, “Realizing the Full Potential of Health Information Technology to Improve Healthcare for Americans: The Path Forward,” the council makes several recommendations for the development of an “IT ecosystem” that would enable the secure, real-time exchange of patient information.

“Information technology has the potential to vastly improve patient care and create new markets based on health care innovation — but only if we make wise decisions now,” said Eric Lander, co-chair of the council. “This report outlines a path to achieving these aims.”

Health IT is well behind other IT sectors in developing universal exchange standards that “have resulted in new products that knit together fragmented systems into a unified infrastructure … and increases the value of the infrastructure for all,” according to the report. “The market for new products and services based on health IT remains relatively small and undeveloped compared with corresponding markets in most other sectors of the economy, and there is little or no network effect to spur adoption.”

The technology to create the necessary digital infrastructure and exchange language is already “proven and available,” according to the council’s news release, but there’s little profit potential in developing those systems. If the federal government facilitates that development, private industry could develop more profitable products that build on the infrastructure and language, the release said.

The council recommends that the federal Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services develop guidelines to spur adoption of an exchange language. Physicians would acquire applications and other middleware that would work with existing electronic health record systems.

The report advocates using tagged data elements to manage and store bits of information, an approach that would allow individualized privacy rules for each nugget of data. Users could adjust privacy and security rules for each piece of information, depending on sensitivity, according to the report.

The system would not require creation of universal patient identifiers or a centralized federal patient database, both of which cause major privacy concerns.

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