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    ONC unveils step toward ‘interoperability for all’

    Acknowledging the challenges that exist in sharing healthcare data—but also some initial success—federal regulators believe they have a plan to boost interoperability.

    Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has released a draft for the Trusted Exchange Framework, a set of technical specifications intended to help move the healthcare industry toward more efficient and effective data exchange for patients, physicians and payers.

     

    RELATED READING: There needs to be accountability for the lack of interoperability

     

    The framework is a requirement of the 21st Century Cures Act, and one of several initiatives created by Congress to improve the flow of healthcare information.

    In announcing the proposed framework, ONC chief Don Rucker, MD described it as a “network of networks” concept that will help connect existing entities and allow them to exchange information. The framework does not specifically address the provider level, such as allowing one provider to access information from another provider, but will allow networks using the proposed framework to more easily exchange information using an agreed upon standard. There are other rules in process that will directly address topics like information blocking and open application programming interfaces (a set of rules on how software interacts and provides information to other software).

    Genevieve Morris, ONC’s principal deputy national coordinator for health information technology, says they want to establish a single “on-ramp” to interoperability, where a provider can log into one network and get all the patient data they need from any other network. Just like users of different cell phone networks can exchange calls and data with each other, Morris says the same thing should be possible in healthcare.

    Next: What the proposed framework means for HIPAA

    Todd Shryock
    Todd Shryock, contributing author

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