Wanted: Feedback on Ways to Measure the Implementation and Use of Interoperability Standards

Steven Posnack, M.S., M.H.S. | April 26, 2017

In our everyday lives standards enable tasks to be completed more efficiently, reduce configuration costs, and add predictability in markets that can help the lower barriers to entry for innovative products. However, experience has shown that just because technology includes “standardized” capabilities they are not necessarily used to their fullest extent nor are they always implemented in a “standardized” manner. From a health information technology (health IT) perspective, this is especially true when other non-standard/non-computable options exist (e.g., fax), business incentives are misaligned, and in cases where exchange partners cannot equally benefit from standardized data exchange (among other reasons).

When it comes to evaluating interoperability from a technical perspective, one “simple” question to ask is: did the people who developed the health IT in use implement the same standards in the same way to solve the same problem? The Interoperability Standards Advisory (ISA) seeks to give some guidance on standards measurement by estimating a standard’s implementation and use in the field. However, for many standards today publicly reported, quantifiable data regarding their implementation and use is often not readily available or regularly tracked. Indeed, measuring for what purposes and to what extent interoperability standards are being implemented and used is of particular importance because it can identify industry trends as well as areas where standardization on its own appears not to be enough to prompt widespread use.

To address this challenge, ONC has released for public comment a proposed measurement framework which seeks to gain consensus on industry-wide measures to assess the implementation and use of standards. ONC recognizes the critical role that health IT developers, health information exchange organizations, and health care organizations will need to play to develop an agreed upon set of measures to assess the implementation and use of standards.

Accurate measurement will require strong support and participation from multiple health IT stakeholders. Your feedback will help us to engage and coordinate with stakeholders, especially those who may be in the best position to contribute data toward industry-wide measures. Ultimately, a finalized measurement framework would enable aggregate, industry-wide statistics that could be used as a resource by all stakeholders to inform business decisions, enrich policy deliberations, and enhance the accuracy of the guidance provided by the ISA.

Your input is critical. Not only will it inform this specific work but also other federal efforts, including ONC’s interoperability measurement more broadly.  ONC is accepting public comment on the Proposed Interoperability Standards Measurement Framework until 5 p.m. ET on Monday, July 31, 2017.