Two new reports have been released on interoperability in September 2017 with potential impact on public health. The reports focus on the perceived successes and barriers to health information exchange and interoperability. We draw out the relevance of these reports to public health as well as some of our own observations on these issues from a past working paper.
Firth, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) released a commissioned study, Connecting Public Health Information Systems and Health Information Exchange Organizations: Lessons from the Field. This study of former ONC Health Information Exchange (HIE) grantees focuses on their experience, best practices, and lessons learned promoting the use of HIEs for public health reporting. The report covered a number of areas, including leadership issues, technical considerations, financial issues, privacy and security, and legal and policy issues. Generally the report provides useful information and insight, though it is not clear how many actual public health agencies were interviewed (as opposed to the HIEs alone). There is also an over-emphasis on clinical documents when much of public health reporting is still leveraging HL7 v2 messages. And the discussion of CMS 90/10 funding requires a more nuanced understanding to be used effectively.
HIEs can certainly be effective partners for public health reporting and data exchange. We have studied this in the past – see the HLN White Paper, IIS and HIE: Is there a Future Together? (November 2013). This report stresses the collaborative nature of public health-HIE collaboration, which we also emphasized in our White Paper.
Second, The National Quality Forum (NQF) recently issued A Measurement Framework to Assess Nationwide Progress Related to Interoperable Health Information Exchange to Support the National Quality Strategy: Final Report. This report is the culmination of an NQF project to understand the barriers to interoperability and develop a measurement framework to monitor its effectiveness. While there is only passing reference to public health in this final report, there is some useful insights and strategies toward measuring interoperability.