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President's Council Calls For Universal Data Exchange

A "universal exchange language" will facilitate the robust, secure electronic exchange of health information across institutions according a report from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

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A new government report is urging the federal government to establishment a "universal exchange language" to facilitate the robust, secure electronic exchange of health information across institutions.

Further, the report calls for the nation's Chief Technology Officer, the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Health and Human Services to collaborate on developing, within 12 months, a set of metrics to measure progress toward an operational health IT infrastructure nationwide.

Released Wednesday, the report, -- Realizing the Full Potential of Health Information Technology to Improve Healthcare for Americans: The Path Forward -- is the work of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), which relied on its members, as well as experts in healthcare and information technology, to assess the current state of government efforts to modernize the nation's health IT systems.

While the document commends recent initiatives to spur health IT modernization such as the Electronic Health Record (EHR) incentive programs and initiatives to fund the development of health information exchanges, the report also found weaknesses in the federal government's approach and noted that: "federal efforts are not optimized to achieve the President's goals of improving the quality of healthcare and reducing its cost."

"We are already making great progress, but we've still got a long way to go," HHS Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, said Wednesday at a Washington D.C. event to announce the release of the report.

While noting that the report shows the huge potential of health information technology to support doctors, empower patients, reduce paperwork, protect privacy, and improve the quality of care, Sebelius also said the adoption of electronic health records has comes with many challenges.

"It takes time to learn new technology, especially if you're a doctor in a small practice without a health IT staff. There's also the challenge of being able to share information securely with other providers if they have a different system. And then there's the fact that the systems can be expensive, even if they pay off in the long run," Sebelius said.

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