Monday, November 21, 2011

The November HIT Standards Committee

by John Halamka, Life as a Healthcare CIO, November 16, 2011

Today, the HIT Standards Committee shifted gears from the Summer Camp work on Meaningful Use Stage 2 and began new interoperability efforts.

We began the meeting with a presentation by Liz Johnson and Judy Murphy about the Implementation Workgroup's recommendations to improve the certification and testing process.   These 15 items incorporate the Stage 1 experience gathered from numerous hospitals and eligible professionals.   If ONC and NIST can implement this plan, many stakeholders will benefit.  The Committee approved these recommendations without revision.

Next, we focused on content, vocabulary and transport standards.

In my October HIT Standards Committee blog post, I noted that HITSC should work on the following projects:

*Continued refinement of the Consolidated CDA implementation guides and tools to enhance semantic interoperability including consistent use of business names in "Green" over-the-wire standards.
*Simplifying the specification for quality measures to enhance consistency of implementation.
*Standardizing DICOM image objects for image sharing and investigating other possible approaches.   We'll review image transfer standards, image viewing standards, and image reporting standards.
*Query Health - distributed queries that send questions to data instead of requiring consolidation of the data

*Extending the quality measurement vocabularies to clinical summaries
*Finalizing a standardized lab ordering compendium

*Specifying how the metadata ANPRM be integrated into health exchange architectures
*Supporting additional NwHIN standards development (hearings about Exchange specification complexity, review/oversight of the S&I Framework projects on simplification of Exchange specifications).   Further defining secure RESTful transport standards.
*Accelerating provider directory pilots (Microdata, RESTful query/response that separates the transaction layer from the schema) and rapidly disseminating lessons learned.

The November Committee agenda included a discussion of  Consolidated CDA, Quality Measures, and NwHIN Implementation Guides.

Doug Fridsma began with a discussion of the Consolidated CDAwork and the tools which support it.

The Committee had a remarkable dialog with more passion and unanimity than at any recent discussion.   We concluded:
*Simple XML that is easily implemented will accelerate adoption
*That simple XML should be backed by a robust information model.   However, implementers should not need expert knowledge of that model.  The information model can serve as a reference for SDOs to guide their work
*Detailed Clinical Models, as exemplified by Stan Huff's Clinical Information Modeling Initiative (CIMI) hold great promise.   Stan has assembled an international consensus group including those who work on
 -Archetype Object Model/ADL 1.5 openEHR
 -CEN/ISO 13606 AOM ADL 1.4
 -UML 2.x + OCL + healthcare extensions
 -OWL 2.0 + healthcare profiles and extensions
 -MIF 2 + tools HL7 RIM – static model designer

Their work may be much more intuitive than today's HL7 RIM as the basis for future clinical exchange standards.

*Rather than debate whether Consolidated CDA OR GreenCDA(simplified XML tagging) should be the over the wire format, the Committee noted that "OR" really implies "AND" for vendors and increases implementation burden.   The Committee endorsed moving forward with GreenCDA as the single over the wire format.   
*We should move forward now with this work, realizing that it will take 9-12 months and likely will not be included in Meaningful Use Stage 2, but it is the right thing to do.

Thus, the future Transfer of Care Summary will be assembled  from a simple set of clinically relevant GreenCDA templates, based on CIMI models, as needed to support various use cases.  There will be no optionality  - just a single way to express medical concepts in specific templates.

To support this approach, we'll need great modeling tools.    David Carlson and John Timm presented the applications developed to support the VA's Model Driven Health Tools initiative.  This software turns clinical models into XML and conformance testing tools.   The committee was very impressed.

Next, Avinash Shanbhag presented the ONC work on Quality Measures  that seeks to ensure quality  numerators and denominators are expressed in terms of existing EHR data elements captured as part of standard patient care workflows.

Avinash also presented an update on transport efforts, which include easy to use, well documented implementation guides for SMTP/SMIME and SOAP.   The work is highly modular and does not require that the full suite of NwHIN Exchange specifications be implemented for SOAP exchanges.

As part of the ongoing efforts to improve NwHIN Exchange, the HIT Standards Committee is seeking input from NwHIN implementers per this blog post.

Finally, Wil Yu updated the committee on the SHARP and other innovation programs

There will be a great body of challenging work to do in 2012.   What's needed after that?  The next 5 years will include many new regulations as healthcare reform is rolled out.   It's clear that the Standards Committee will have many topics to discuss.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Elephant in the Room: The Prequel

At the October HIT Policy Committee, Charles Kennedy described his work with health systems establishing accountable care models.  His clients "have actual health plan products that are private labeled products with the delivery systems' name on it that they’re selling."

Kenedy talked with the COO of one health system that was particularly high cost.  Kennedy asked the COO:  "Why on earth would you want to form an ACO? You’re a monopoly. You’re making tons of money.  You can keep doing this for some period of time."

The COO replied “Look I understand that the jig is up.”

The COO went on to say "I know how to take $60 out per member per month.  $60 - - out of my cost structure.  I know exactly how to do it.  I never had a motivation to do it before - - until health care reform happened."  Kennedy explained that the COO has now "taken those costs out of his delivery system and because he has a product in the marketplace he gets to reap those efficiencies.  The second thing he said was that 'I never really had a use for health IT until I began to take costs out of my infrastructure'."