HL7 Recruits Clinicians To Improve Health IT Standards

Health Level Seven launches program to incorporate clinician experience in electronic health record standards.
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To encourage clinicians to participate in the process of developing standards for electronic health records (EHRs), Health Level Seven (HL7) International recently launched a pilot membership program to enable caregivers to share their knowledge about the clinical requirements for standards needed to support a patient-centered healthcare system.

HL7, a non-profit, standards-development organization, provides a framework and related standards for the exchange, integration, sharing, and retrieval of electronic health information. The organization said in a statement that annual caregiver membership costs $100 and is open to physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and others who are involved in direct patient care.

Through the new program, clinicians can:

-- Help ensure that standards adopted for healthcare IT (HIT) offer real and practical value in supporting the information exchange needed to facilitate coordinated patient care.

-- Improve the quality and usability of the HIT standards developed by HL7 and, ultimately, the EHR products that use them.

-- Network with HL7 members who are nationally recognized experts in HIT.

-- Share knowledge and gain insight on how data standards affect clinical practice in supporting patient care and improving quality and efficiency.

-- Gain access to the information needed to make informed decisions on EHR purchases, and know what to request from vendors.

[ Most of the largest healthcare data security and privacy breaches have involved lost or stolen mobile computing devices. For possible solutions, see 7 Tools To Tighten Healthcare Data Security. ]

The new HL7 program comes at a time when providers have established a plethora of health information exchanges to share patient data. Additionally, newly established accountable care organizations will tie reimbursements to quality performance measures and cost reductions. This, along with the requirements outlined in the recently proposed rules for Meaningful Use stage 2 means healthcare organizations will have to do more clinical reporting through EHRs and other IT tools.

In an interview, Charles Jaffe, CEO of Health Level Seven International said the criteria for Meaningful Use stage 2 and beyond will require mission-critical health IT to provide quality measurement, comparative effectiveness information, and decision support.

"While HL7 has developed the specifications for these processes, the caregivers in our program will become essential for establishing how our technologies are embedded and deployed," Jaffe told InformationWeek Healthcare. "Equally important are the standards and the framework for patient-centered care and support. Finally, HL7 has created the infrastructure for connecting personal health data (such as genetic records) to the care delivery process."

Jaffe also explained that the HL7 program will give caregivers a voice in the development of the standards that serve as the building blocks for this technology, and each professional in the continuum of wellness and healthcare delivery can provide insight into the workflow and business requirements of clinical care.

"Researchers, for example, have different demands for contributing data and development information. Pediatricians and pediatric nurses interact very differently with their patients, and require different tools for record keeping and decision support. Pharmacists have become a vital component of the care teams, interacting with both physicians and patients," Jaffe said. "While affinity groups naturally evolve, we believe that there are common and unifying components of their workflow and care responsibilities. HL7 will facilitate this process."

Dr. Feliciano Yu, a practicing pediatrician and chief medical information officer at St. Louis Children's Hospital, based in St. Louis, Mo., and co-chair of the HL7 Child Health Work Group, said in a statement: "My participation in HL7 has allowed me to make a tangible impact on how technology is used in healthcare. I reap the benefits in a very practical way as I apply technology within my institution."

HL7 standards development projects currently under way that will benefit from caregiver input include:

-- Electronic Health Records System Functional Model, Release 2
-- Preoperative Domain Analysis Model (DAM)
-- Emergency Medical System DAM
-- Neonatal Functional Profile
-- Cardiovascular DAM

Functional models and profiles describe requirements for EHR system capabilities. DAMs describe workflow and data requirements within specific domains of care.

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