As pointed out in previous posts, there is an ongoing drumbeat of discussion on the best way to realize Meaningful Use in the new HITECH world. Recently, HL7’s CEO and CTO wrote a column for Government Health IT entitled Leverage Today’s Standards for Meaningful Use. A key portion of the column states:
“To discard the existing data interchange standards and to replace them with something new and ‘simpler,’ as some are proposing, would be counterproductive.
Instead, we need updated and simplified tools and processes that leverage the existing standards and produce the needed interoperability.”
There is an obvious cynical angle that could be made of this column, since it is the HL7 leadership stating that the healthcare standards are just fine. The problem is the tools and processes, and the Federal government, according to this column, is doing great at building these tools and processes. Making that cynical argument may not be the most productive.
Granted the column was placed in Government Health IT magazine, so the expectation may be a more government focused article. Reading the column several times now, it is still unclear what is being advocated. It seems the arguments being advanced are:
- Keep HL7 and other standards as is, especially since it would be very costly to take a different approach in defining Meaningful Use.
- The government is using existing healthcare standards effectively today, and the government is building software applications to work with those standards. The government will “spur innovation.”
The HL7 column seems awkward. The first point is a compelling perspective to be taken into account in the formulation of Meaningful Use, especially with the aggressive time schedules. The second point on the government spurring innovation is more questionable. There is no doubt that the government is spurring the healthcare industry to action on implementing EHRs and facilitating greater healthcare interoperability. Do we really want government-developed applications as the standard though?
Two points should not be lost in the Meaningful Use discussion.
First, there should be a constant focus on how the changes will impact the delivery of patient care. High quality and efficient delivery of patient care should be paramount.
Second, the private sector needs to step up to the challenges and continue to drive innovation in the applications and devices being developed and offered. Unquestionably, the government has placed incentives and regulations into the market to motivate and constrain at the same time.
Sorting through these elements will be a challenge, and most healthcare application vendors are ready to take it on.
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