U.S. updates health IT interoperability standards

​Private health IT developers now have an updated list of federally recognized standards to build interoperable products and services on a national level.

U.S. private sector health IT developers on Tuesday got an updated list of federally recognized standards to help them build interoperable products and services that can work with competitors’ offerings.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT published its 2016 Interoperability Standards Advisory, a document for health IT companies to keep abreast of emerging and mature interoperability standards and implementation specifications ONC recognizes as “best available.”

This year’s advisory updates the framework ONC set up in its inaugural document in 2015.

“The Interoperability Standards Advisory is a critical element of our delivery system reform vision where electronic health information is unlocked and securely accessible to achieve better care, smarter spending, and healthier people,” ONC’s Steve Posnack and Chris Muir wrote in a blog about the new standards.


Not much has changed since the first standards advisory, minus some broad structural changes to the document to expand its “depth and breadth.” The 2016 advisory includes six new characteristics that give more context on a standards and implementation specifications’ maturity and adoptability. This help’s ONC “set a baseline that will allow us to track industry progress over time as standards and implementation specifications get updated and retired; move from draft to final; mature from pilot to production; and grow from low to high adoption,” Posnack and Muir wrote.

This list of standards plays a critical role in ONC’s greater Interoperability Roadmap, which it released early this year. The roadmap “proposes critical actions that the public and private sector need to take to advance the country towards an interoperable health IT ecosystem over the next 10 years. Achieving such an interoperable system is an essential element towards HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell’s vision of better care through smarter spending, leading to healthier people,” National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo said when the draft of the roadmap was released.

One of ONC’s critical pathways for success in the near-term in the roadmap is the requirement of standards.

The advisory was built on feedback from public comment on the 2015 Interoperability Standards Advisory and recommendations from the Health IT Standards Committee. ONC accepted comments on a draft version of the advisory for a 45-day period until Nov. 6. In early 2016, ONC will begin taking comments on the final advisory to begin crafting the 2017 update.

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