09 FEBRUARY, 2017
When the 21st Century Cures Act was passed into law in December of 2016, it established new requirements for interoperability and certification of health information technology, while prohibiting practices that discourage the exchange of electronic health information.
So we wanted to take a look at what you need to know about this standard and how it’s likely to impact you in the year ahead.
1. In late 2016, ONCHIT issued its 2017 Interoperability Standards Advisory (ISA), providing the healthcare industry with a listing of standards and implementation specifications meant to enhance the flow of electronic health information—and Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) is listed in many parts as an emerging standard.
2. The HL7 FHIR standard allows clinicians to access data about a patient across many different systems, as a single view rather than pulling full health records from each system—healthcare data can be represented once in FHIR and then used in REST, web services, HL7 messages, or documents, as Russell Leftwich, MD, explained for Intersystems.
3. A “Standard for Trial Use” (STU3) is expected in March 2017, with a normative version expected toward the end of the year, according to Health Data Management (HDM).
4. Larger vendors, however, are generally not waiting for the normative release—many have software in production that uses FHIR standards. Cloverleaf, Cerner, athenahealth, and Epic already have FHIR implementations out there, in various forms. Smaller vendors, however, may wait until next year to incorporate FHIR into their products.
5. HL7, the standards organization behind FHIR, has announced a collaboration agreement with the Healthcare Services Platform Consortium (HSPC)—and the end goal is an apps marketplace, like a “Google Play Store” but for healthcare, to support common services and shorten development lifecycles.
“… will require maintaining a strong understanding of the potential risks of these new standards and not just their benefits.”
What does this mean for The Healthcare IT Professional?
The healthcare industry is likely to undergo significant advancements in the coming years and every HIT professional should watch those changes carefully. While these advancements come with significant benefits for clinicians and greater access to information for patients, the burden of keeping data safe will likely still fall to the IT team. That will require maintaining a strong understanding of the potential risks of these new standards and not just their benefits.
However, with the legal requirements for interoperability, ignoring the new standards is no longer a choice—so as a HIT professional you should get ahead of the curve by educating yourself now and closely monitoring available options from your vendors of choice.